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Full text of "The mystics, ascetics, and saints of India : a study of Sadhuism, with an account of the Yogis, Sanyasis, Bairagis, and other strange Hindu sectarians"




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LIBRARY OF 
WELLESLEY COLLEGE 




PRESENTED BY 

Lucy E. Trli»^ 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND 
SAINTS OF INDIA 



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London : T. FISHER UNW^IN. 




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I— I 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, 
AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

A Study of Sadhuism, with an Account of the TogiSy 
Sanyasis^ Bairagis^ and other strange Hindu Sectarians 



BY 



JOHN CAMPBELL OMAN \ 

FORMERLY PROFESSOR OF NATURAL SCIENCE IN THE GOVERNMENT COLLEGE, LAHORE ' 

AUTHOR OF 1 

"INDIAN LIFE, RELIGIOUS AND SOCIAL" " THE GREAT INDIAN EPICS " j 

"where three CREEDS MEET " ETC. I 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BT 
WILLIAM CAMPBELL OMAN, A.R.I.B.A. 



SECOND IMPRESSION \ 




LONDON 

T. FISHER UNWIN 

PATERNOSTER SQUARE 
1905 






All FiiUs Rtstrvtd] J 



19 




Biologists teach tliat the body i-'ofje very human being|is 
an aggregation of various and innumerable protoplasmic 
cells which are ever undergoing changes, constructive and 
destructive. And yet we can plainly see that each man, 
though perceptibly changing with the passing years, per- 
sistently retains to the end a marked individuality, together 
with corporeal and mental characteristics peculiarly his 
own. So, too, is it with each race of men and the 
comparatively short-lived units of which it is made up. 
Of the latter, some are, at every moment of time, passing 
away and giving place to newer and slightly modified 
ones ; but the race as a whole, though thus steadily 
undergoing mutation — perhaps suffering decay — with the 
fleeting centuries, still holds fast certain physical and 
psychological traits, its special heritage and possession, 
wliich have in the past differentiated it from all other 
races, and will continue to do so as long as it enjoys a 
separate existence. 

Thus it happens that every distinct ethnic division of 
the world's population has its own peculiar ideals and 



PREFACE 

aspirations, its own philosophy and religion, and also its 
own intellectual and moral limitations. 

Obviously, then, nothing can be more helpful for the 
comprehension of the history, condition, and prospects of 
any people than the discovery and recognition of those 
salient and persistent habits, mental peculiarities and 
tendencies, which it has uninterruptedly exhibited through 
a long period of time. 

Now the study of Indian Asceticism and Mysticism 
affords, I believe, not only an admirable, but the very 
best means of obtaining such desirable information in 
regard to the great Hindu race. T hope, therefore, that 
the present volume, which is concerned with the results 
of the most deep-seated and abiding ideas and sentiments 
of the Indian people, may, notwithstanding its necessary 
imperfections, meet with appreciation in some quarters at 
least, and help to interpret the people of India to that 
section of the English public which is, more or less, 
interested in a little - understood but most fascinating 
land, with whose fortunes are irrevocably linked, for good 
or evil, the destinies of Great Britain and the Anglo- 
Saxon race. 

At the threshold I ought to explain that a description 
of the peculiarities and minor differences of the innumer- 
able Hindu ascetic sects and sub -sects has not entered 
into my plan, though all the more important sectarian 
divisions have been noticed, and such details as seemed 
essential for the comprehension of the whole subject have 
not been omitted. 

A great many curious myths, legends, and stories 
about ascetics of various sects have been included in this 
volume ; but I make no apology on this account, because 
such myths and stories reveal, far better than any disserta- 
tions could possibly do, the true nature of Indian asceticism. 

vi 



PREFACE 

as well as the intellectual level and ethical ideals of the 
Hindus from times immemorial. 

A word as to the plan of the book may perhaps 
be acceptable. In the first place, I should state that 
throughout this volume the word sadhu stands as a 
general name for any Hindu ascetic, monk, or religious 
mendicant, without reference to sect or order ; and faquir 
as the corresponding term for ascetics, etc., who profess 
Islam. The earlier chapters (I. to IV.) are designed to 
acquaint the reader with the leading or root ideas of 
Indian asceticism, or sadhuism as I call it, and to 
introduce him to the sadhus themselves as they appear 
at the present day. Old Indian dramas and tales and 
the accounts of European travellers are drawn upon in 
Chapters V. and VI., to show that sadhuism has been an 
ancient and persistent feature of Indian life. And as 
Hindu asceticism is not to be understood without some 
knowledge of the principles which underlie the philosophico- 
religious ideas of the Brahmans, these are succinctly ex- 
plained in Chapter VII., and supplemented with a brief 
summary of the modifications which Hinduism has under- 
gone in the progress of its development through more than 
a thousand years. 

In Chapter VIII. the principal ascetic sects and their 
subdivisions are described, the Yogis, commonly called jogis, 
and the yoga system receiving especial attention. In 
Chapters IX. to XI. the reader is taken into the company 
of many sadhus I have known, and within the precincts of 
a few of the monasteries I have visited. Probably these 
last-named chapters may help to bring European readers 
into actual touch, as it were, with sadhuism as it exists 
to-day ; and, if so, I shall not regret the time and the 
trouble, by no means inconsiderable, involved in collecting 
the particulars which I have embodied in them. 

vii 



PREFACE 

The concluding chapter is devoted to general observa- 
tions upon the past effects, present state, and future 
prospects of sadhuism. 

For all the illustrations and for many of the photo- 
graphs reproduced in this volume I am indebted to my 

son. Mr. William Campbell Oman. 

J, C. 0. 

London. 



1 

i' 

I 



viii 



ll 



CONTENTS 

I 
PAGK i 

1 

Pkeface ..••..«« V I 

'( 
I 

INTRODUCTION ■ 

Early Recollections of Sadhus and Faquirs — They are and have | 

always been conspicuous Figures in India — May be seen every- 
where wandering over Plain and Mountain, through Cities and ' 
Jungles — Neither understood nor appreciated by Europeans — • 
They are of various Sects, hold peculiar Opinions, and indulge in j 
strange Practices — The very Spirit of the East is embodied in the j 
Sadhu ......••! 



CHAPTER I 

ASCETICISM : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 



Asceticism a common Feature in all Religions — Ideas underlying 
Asceticism — Sinfulness — The Doctrine that Matter is inherently 
bad — The Belief that the Human Body is the great Hindrance 
to the Attainment by the Soul of its proper Destiny — Ascetic 
Practices, and the Conditions, geographical, political, and social, 
which are most favourable to their adoption by a large propor- 
tion of any Community — The Existence of such Conditions in 
India from the earliest up to recent times .... 

CHAPTER II 

SOME PECULIAR AND DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF 

HINDU ASCETICISM -. 

Hindu Idea of the unbounded Power over Nature attainable through 
Ascetic Practices — The Rationale of this Notion — Examples of 
Power acquired by Asceticism cited from the Mahabharata, the 
Ramayana, the Siva Purana, and the Vishnu Purana — Th© 
Supreme Being Himself practises Austerities — Rivalry of Sects 
gives rise to Legends of Conflicts, based on successful Ascetic 
Practices between rival Leaders — Titanic Conflict between Va- 
ehishta and Visvamitra, also between Nanak and the Siddhas — 



Hindu Asceticism has usually no relation to Ethics . . 18 i 

ix 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER III 

SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS AND ELSEWHERE 



PAGE 



"^ Sadhus as seen at Fairs — Their Dress — Sect Marks and their Explana- 

tion — Hairdressing — Rosaries — Various Ornaments and their 
Significance — Sadhus' Alms-bowls, Tongs, Arm-rests, Charas- 
pipes, Bhang-mortars, etc. — Hermitages — Ascetic Practices of 
various Kinds and Degrees — IMinor Asceticisms — Posturings — 
Strange Purificatory Rites . . . . .36 



CHAPTER IV 

THE WONDERS THAT PRESENT-DAY SADHUS AND FAQUIRS 
ARE SAID TO PERFORM 

Visionists like the Sanyasi Ramakrishna — Sadhus to some extent what 
the Magicians and Necromancers have elsewhere been — Tales and 
Anecdotes of the Wonders performed by Sadhus and of Calamities 
brought on or averted by them — Transmutation of Metals by 
Sadhus — Story of Muslim Thaumaturgist who was the Disciple of 
a Sadhu — Claims of Superiority over Sadhus made by Faquirs — 
Strange Treatment of a Faquir by a co-Religionist — Sadhus as 
Physicians, Palmists, Fortune-tellers, and Acrobats . . 52 



CHAPTER V 

SOME GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

Eight Stories from famous Sanskrit Dramas and other Sources : 
(1) Sakoontala ; (2) Malati and Madhava ; (3) Disillusionment ; 
(4) The Horned Rishi ; (5) The lost Son restored ; (6) A Kind- 
hearted Lady ; (7) The Father duped ; (8) Woman's Cunning . 68 



CHAPTER VI 

SADHUS AS DESCRIBED BY SOME EUROPEAN VISITORS 10 INDIA 

Greek and Roman Accounts of Sadhus and their Practices — Observa- 
tions regarding Sadhus and their Peculiarities recorded in the 
Works of the Jeweller Tavernier, the Physician Bernier, the 
" Senior Merchant " James Forbes, the Missionary Ward, Colonel 
Sleeman, and Bishop Heber . . . . .92 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER VII 

A VIEW OF THE SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM AND 
OF THE ORIGIN OF THE MORE IMPORTANT HINDU SECTS, IN 
RELATION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF SADHUISM IN INDIA 



PAGE 



Section I. — Some fundamental Doctrines of Hindu Theology : My a 

— Pantheism — Metempsychosis — Karma .... 105 



CHAPTER YlI~continued 

Section II. — Modern Hinduism — Principal Divisions— The Sivite 
Reformer, Sankara Acharya — His Crusade against Buddhism — 
Sakti Worship — Mahmoud of Guzni's successful Invasion of India 
— Islam a stimulating Factor in the Origination of new and rival 
Siva and Vishnu Sects — The Puranas — Ramanuja's Campaign 
against Sivaism — Basava and his Doctrines — Krishna Worship 
preached by Madhavacharya — His Theological Views — Rama- 
nand preaches at Benares the Worship of Rama and Sita — 
Tendency towards Anthropomorphism in the later Sects . 109 



CHAPTER YII— continued 

Section III. — Modern Democratic Reformers — Kabir, his peculiar 
and important position as a Reformer — Vallabhacharya sets up 
the Worship of Krishna as Bala Gopala— Chaitanya the Mystic 
preaches the Worship of Krishna cicm Radha — Baba Nanak and 
his Teaching — The Sikhs — Dadu and his Sect — Ram Cham and 
the Ram Sanehis founded by him — The Rajput Princess Mirabai 
a Devotee of Krishna — The Trend of Latter-day Hinduism — Brief 
Summary . ... . . . . . 122 



CHAPTER VIII j 

! 

HINDU ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS | 

i 

Section I. — Introductory Remarks — The Multiplicity of Hindu Sects '> 

by no means Abnormal — Jain Monks or Yatis interviewed — Their ; 

Opinions and Habits . . . . . .142 • 

I 

i 

CHAPTER Ylll^continued ^ 

Section II.— Principal Hindu Sects : Saivas, Vaishnavas, and Sikhs 
— Particulars regarding Sanyasis, Dandis, Paramahansas, Brah- 
macharis, Lingaits, and Aghoris . . . . .152 \ 

xi I 

i 



,1 



CONTENTS 



CRATTERIYIII— continued 



PAOE 



Section III. — Yogis and Yoga Vidya — Yogis attracting attention 
in the West — Philosophico-religious Ideas underlying Yogaisra — 
Emancipation of the Soul the supreme Object of Hindu religious 
Aspiration — Yoga Vidya teaches how Union of the individual Soul 
with the All-Spirit may be accomplished — Details and probable 
Origin of the Discipline and Practices of Y^oga Vidya — The Pre- 
tensions of the modern Yogis — History, Customs, and Rules of 
the Yogi Sect ....... 108 



CHAPTEPv YIU— continued 

Section IV. — Vaishnava Sects : Sri Vaishnavas, Madhavas, Raman- 

andis, Kabir Panthis, Ballavacharyas, and Chaitanites . . 187 



CHAPTER Mill— continued 
Section V. — Three Sikh Mendicant Orders: Udasis, Nirmalis, Akalis 194 

CHAPTER IX 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS, GOOD AND BAD 

1. The Swinging Bairagi. 2. The Sauyasi Swami Bhaskarananda of 
Benares. 3. Gareeb Das, an Urdhabahu Bairagi. 4. A Yogi who 
protected Amritsar from the Plague. 5. A Brahmachari from the 
Tamil Country. 6. A Sadhu of European Descent at Simla. 7. A 

Naked Sanyasi and his Companion, a Princess of B . 8. A 

Sadhu of Royal Lineage, Prince Bir Bhanu Singh. 9. A Sadhu 
who had found God. 10. A Sun-worshipping Bairagi. 11. Yogis 
and Pious Women. 12. A pseudo-Sadhu and his Adventures. 
13. Yogi Guests. 14. A Sadhu as Restaurateur. 15. A Saint in 
Chains ........ 202 

CHAPTER X 

SOME SADHVIS OR VBMALB DBVOTESl 

1. A public Lecturer, Srimati Pandita Mai Jivan Mukut. 2. Shri Maji, 
the Recluse of Annandgupha. 3. Premi, a young Sadhvi who 
embraced Christianity ...... 242 

xii 



CONTENTS 
CHAPTER XI 

HINDU MONASTERIES 



PAGE 



Monasteries have existed in India since the earliest times, and are at 
present to be found scattered all over the Country — Religious and 
Worldly Motives which prompt the Foundation of Monasteries 
— Management of Monastic Properties — Monks not expected to 
labour in anyway — Installation of an Abbot described — A Visit to 
the Udasi Akhara of Santokh Das; the Presence of Women toler- 
ated there — the Treasures of the place and their History — Respect 
entertained by the Sect for Ashes — Interview with another Abbot 
who had not a single good word for Sadhus — Visit to a Dharmsala 
of the Nirmali Sect ; Sanskrit Literature read and expounded 
there — The great Monastery at Jogi Tilla ; Interview with the 
Abbot ; meet some Acquaintances — A romantic Story associated 
with Tilla — Particulars about certain places of Pilgrimage com- 
mimicated by a talkative itinerant Yogi — Sadhus' Partiality for 
Nudity ........ 248 



CHAPTER XII 

CONCLUSION 

National Ideals of Life as indications of National Character — Euro- 
pean and American Ideals contrasted with that of India — A Life 
involving Renunciation regarded by the Hindus as the only 
possible Holy Life — Sadhuism in its Religious, Social, Political, 
Intellectual, and Industrial Aspects — The probable Future of 
Sadhuism considered ...... 270 



Index ..,,,... 285 



xiu 



jj 

g 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



FIG. 





Hindu Ascetics. ..... 


Frontispiece 


1. 


A Bairagi and his Hermitage . . Facing page 42 


2. 


Sadhus at Home . . . 


ff 


44 


3. 


An Urdhamtjkhi Sadhxj .... 


»» 


46 


4. 


Faqttir weighted with heavy Chains 


»» 


48 


5. 


Sadhus in various prescribed Postures . 


*» 


60 


6. 


Hindu Ascetics undergoing Austerities. Repro- 








duction OF AN Old It.TiUstration . 


»» 


94 


7. 


A Solitary ...... 


j> 


100 


8. 


Procession in Honour of the Veiling of a Jain 








Nun ....... 


»> 


150 


9. 


Sanyasis at a Religious Gathering 


ff 


154 


10. 


A Yogi from Mirzapur .... 


j> 


186 


11. 


The Sanyasi Bhaskarananda of Benares . 


>> 


210 


12. 


A Sadhu of European Descent 


>> 


222 


13. 


A Sanyasi and a Sanyasin with their Companions 


)> 


226 


14. 


A Sadiiu of Princely Lineage 


>> 


228 


15. 


A Sun -Worshipping Bairagi .... 


»» 


232 


16. 


The Sadhvi Srimati Pandita Mai Jivan Mukut . 


>> 


244 


17. 


The Monastery of Jogi Tilla . - . 


»» 


266 


18. 


Graves of Yogi Mahants at Bhairon-ka-Than, 








NEAR Lahore ..... 


f> 


268 



XV 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND 
SAINTS OF INDIA 



•s. 



'^ 




Early Recollections of Sadhus and Faquirs — They 
are and have always been conspicuous Figures 
in India — May be seen everywhere wandering 
over Plain and Mountain, through Cities and 
Jungles — Neither understood nor appreciated 
by Europeans — They are of various Sects, 
hold peculiar Opinions, and indulge in strange 
Practices — The very Spirit of the East is 
embodied in the Sadhu. 



Lingering in the far background of my memory is a vivid 
picture of certain sadhus, and of a winter evening long 
years ago on the banks of the sacred Ganges — a picture 
which the lapse of over half a century has not been able 
to dim, much less to obliterate. 

Clear though the picture is, I ^ almost fail at this 
distance of time to fully identify myself with it, and yet 
I certainly took part in the little episode which is 
enshrined in my recollections. With the mind's eye I 
see two children, a girl and a boy, rambling hand in 
hand at some distance from their dear old home hard by 
the sunny hills of Colgong, and as they wander back 
together through the fields in the quickly deepening 

A I 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

twilight a feeling of trepidation seems to take possession 
of them, for, infants though thev are, they know full 
well that murderous thuqs ^ — a fearsome name in those 
days — ^infested the countryside. Their eyes strain with 
anxiety towards the dim outlines of a gigantic banian 
tree which serves them as a homeward landmark ; but 
it seems very far away, and even receding, as a thin 
veil of white smoke steals gradually over the landscape 
in the rapidly failing twilight. Suddenly two gaunt 
sadhus appear not ten yards off before the astonished 
children. So unexpected is their presence, so unaccount- 
able the apparition, that it was as if the unwelcome 
intruders had sprung up out of the ground beneath their 
own feet. Clothed in salmon-coloured robes are these 
meagre, sharp -featured sadhus, with clean-shaven heads 
and faces. They advance, and with soft words and 
insinuating smiles endeavour to entice the startled 
children to approach them, offering, ^vith various alluring 
promises, to show them the wonderful contents of the 
ugly wallets which hang from their shoulders. Good 
Lord ! how the little boy and girl did race towards the 
river when all at once there flashed upon their minds the 
horrible suspicion that the men before them might possibly 
be villainous thugs disguised as sadhus ! How rejoiced 
were the children to find themselves at last safe amongst 
the wondering and sympathetic boatmen on the river 
bank, after a breathless run across country, and after 
what seemed a hot pursuit, though probably it was so 
only in their own excited imaginations ! 

Belonging to the same early period of my life I recol- 
lect well the highly picturesque rocks of Colgong, standing 
like bold intruders in the noble river, with the faqui/s 
lone hermitage perched amidst their gigantic boulders. 
Many tales of wonder were told of the recluse who dwelt 
amongst those crags ; and when every year, in due season, 
the rocks and the hermitage were completely cut off from 
the river bank by the mighty flood, roaring, fretting, and 

^ The thiigs are a secret sect, votaries of the goddess Kali, banded 
together for the purpose of robbery by means of cold-blooded assassinations 
perpetrated with religious rites and under religious sanctions. 

2 



i 



INTRODUCTION 

swirling around the unwelcome barrier, the one inhabitant 
of those desolate islands, the isolated faquify the solitary 
wonder-worker, would become to us little folks an interest- 
ing subject of solicitude and childish speculation. 

Out of that old India, so difierent, so remote in every 
way from the playground of the present-day winter tourist, 
1 recall to mind a long journey by palanquin ddJc, a halt 
under some shady trees in a straggling thatched village, 
an apparently dpng infant in my mother's arms, and a 
white-bearded faquir with many strings of beads about 
his neck, offering some medicine, contained in a mussel- 
shell, which, with Allah's blessing, would save the child's 
life. I recall to mind also how some hours later the 
venerable old man, respectfully but firmly, declined a 
handful of rupees, and, indeed, any reward whatever, for 
the help which Allah had graciously enabled him to afford 
the distressed mother and her sick infant. 

Ever since those now far-off days the Indian ascetics 
have been to me objects of special curiosity and interest, 
not diminished in maturer years by more extensive know- 
ledge of them and their strange beliefs, practices, and 
pretensions. 

Sadhus are and have always been too conspicuous 
figures in India to escape the notice of any intelligent 
European traveller in that country — from Megasthenes 
to Mark Twain and Pierre Loti — and their accentuated 
outward peculiarities have proved so attractive to the 
ubiquitous modern camera-man that his photographs and 
snapshots reproduced in popular pictorial magazines have 
made them, at least in their more uncouth forms, familiar 
to the Western world. 

Wherever at the present time the tourist in India 
may go, he meets sadhus and faquirs in the guise of one 
or other of the many existing sects, orders, or fraternities. 
He comes across them in the busy mart, in the quiet grove 
by the river, in the gay and crowded fair, on the lonely 
hill track, and in the dense forests, where many perish 
miserably, devoured by wild beasts. Indefatigable rovers, 
they usually do not linger long in any one place, but are 
ever on the move, like their gipsy kindred in the West. 

3 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

From about November, when the autumn harvest 
is gathered and the seed for the spring crop committed 
to the soil, till March, when the first-fruits of the year 
are ready for the sickle, the Hindus — men, women, and 
children — spend much of their time in joyous pilgrimages 
to their innumerable sacred places, sometimes hundreds 
of miles away from home. Hardly, indeed, could it be 
otherwise, for a cloudless sky, a crisp exhilarating atmo- 
sphere, and bright genial sunshine call them forth with 
a summons that is irresistible. During this period every 
year there is a lively and healthy circulation throughout 
the land of all ranks and classes, and in these currents of 
life a large proportion of the sadhus fully participate, 
often moving about from place to place in considerable 
parties under leaders and teachers of reputation. And 
far beyond the boundaries of their own vast country do 
the Hindu ascetics wander, as indeed they have done 
since remote antiquity, carrying to distant lands their 
subtle speculations about the origin, nature, and destiny of 
man and the universe to which he belongs. 

As a rule sadhus are cautiously reticent, but they may 
occasionally be induced to tell of long wanderings and 
strange experiences. I have met some of them in Kashmir 
on their way from Puri by the Bay of Bengal to the lone 
ice-caves of Amarnath, and it need not be doubted that 
men who range the whole Indian Peninsula, as these do, 
and wander over the eternal snows of Himalaya, find 
food for lofty thought and deep emotion in the mystery 
and grandeur of the scenes which often meet their gaze. 
Indian poets early appreciated the aesthetic charms of 
nature and the soothing calm of solitude ; and we may 
be sure that even the unsocial sadhu in his journeyings 
amongst the giant mountains looks with wondering 
admiration upon the vagueness and inscrutability of their 
wayward moods, their vast silent snowfields, their whisper- 
ing rills, and furious torrents. It is impossible for any 
man not to experience an indefinable feeling of elation, of 
buoyancy, as he breathes the pure, light, pine-scented air 
of the higher mountain ranges, and watches the rising sun 
paint with rosy flush the icy pinnacles around him ; nor 

4 



INTRODUCTION 

can lie avoid a weird sense of complete isolation and utter 
helplessness when the cloud-wreaths, surging up from the 
valleys, blur and blot out the fair world from view and 
wrap surrounding nature in a pall impenetrable to human 
vision. But not only do the far-ranging sadhus commune 
with Nature in all her various humours and aspects, their 
peregrinations bring them also into touch, in crowded 
cities, with their fellow-men, and, by winning the confidence 
of people of all ranks, they become a potent agency for the 
circulation of news, true or false, and the dissemination of 
ideas, religious, political, or other, which might be ferment- 
ing in the world with which they come in contact. 

Yet though the sadhus as they may be seea have come 
to be familiar to European eyes, they are rarely understood 
by the foreigner, be he temporary visitor or permanent 
resident. Of the beliefs and subtle philosophical ideas 
of these men the stranger, as a rule, knows nothing, while 
their ill-clad forms, and too often grotesque appearance, 
only excite his aversion and unreasoning contempt. 

How much, and how deeply, the Indian people have 
suffered, for habilitory reasons, in the estim.ation of Euro- 
peans it would be hard to say ; but of this I have no doubt, 
that the style of their national dress, and particularly the 
extreme scantiness of their garments, which in most 
cases hardly pretend to cover the persons of the wearers, 
reduce the intellectual and civilised Indians to the level 
of naked savages in the eyes of the majority of the people 
of the West. And the Indian sadhus, frequently all but 
nude, and rubbed over with ashes, undoubtedly incur the 
amused disdain of Europeans, who commonly look upon 
these ascetics as droll fellows or sorry simpletons. 

The sadhu, such as he is, is no recent importation, no 
modern excrescence, but has been ffourisliing in India, a 
veritable indigenous growth, from a time which dates many 
centuries before the advent of Christ, or even the preaching 
by Buddha of the eightfold path leading to enlightenment 
and deliverance. Alexander of Macedon, in his wonderful 
march across the plains of the Punjab in the fourth century 
B.C., saw, and took an interest in, the Indian sadhu ; but 
sadhuism in his day was already hoary v/ith antiquity. 

5 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Sadhus as we find them are of various sects, hold 
peculiar opinions, indulge in strange practices, and subject 
themselves in many cases to cruel hardships and fantastic 
disciplines. They come from all ranks of life and from all 
the hereditary castes into which Hindu society is divided. 
Amongst them we find all shades of religious opinion and 
philosophical speculation, and dietary habits ranging from 
the most fastidious vegetarianism to revolting cannibalism 
in the case of the egregious aghoris described later on. 

Though exceedingly numerous, the Indian sadhus com- 
mand the respect and even the superstitious veneration 
of the vast multitude of their countrymen, who believe 
that they are often, if not always, possessed of almost 
unlimited supernatural power for good or evil. 

The common proverb, Gervi Kapron se jogi nahln hota, 
attests the fact that the Indians, quite as much as Euro- 
peans, are well aware that the habit does not make the 
monk, and stories to the discredit of the religious ascetics 
are current all over India ; but they have not shaken 
the faith of the people in the sadhus^ at any rate not more 
than the tales about the gaily immoral behaviour of the 
mediaeval monks have injuriously affected the position of 
the Komish clergy. 

In the ancient legislation of India the sadhu bulks largely, 
and he has a unique place in the romantic tales of more 
recent date. The very spirit of the East is embodied in 
the sadhu, and it is perhaps not too much to assert that 
he is so important a feature in the life and civilisation of 
India that a study of his characteristics and his relations 
to the general population will not only afford considerable 
light for the comprehension of the Indian people as they 
are, and have been since the earliest historic times, but 
will also, perhaps, be found to have attractions of an even 
wider and more general nature. 



CHAPTER I 



ASCETICISM : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

Asceticism a common Feature in all Religions — Ideas underlying Asceticism 
— Sinfulness — The Doctrine that Matter is inherently bad — The Belief 
that the Human Body is the great Hindrance to the Attainment by the 
Soul of its proper Destiny — Ascetic Practices, and the Conditions, 
geographical, political, and social, which are most favourable to their 
Adoption by a large Proportion of any Community — The Existence of 
such Conditions in India from the earliest up to recent Times. 




SCETICISM is a common feature in 
all religious systems, and is the 
practical expression of certain 
definite phases of religious 
sentiment and philosophical 
speculation. Probably 
the earliest promptings 
towards ascetic practices 
came from a desire of 
self - humiliation before 
the Unseen Powers, in 
order to propitiate them, and to make atonement for 
neglected duties,^ and, consequently, in times of great 
national troubles, when the protecting gods seem to have 
turned away in wrath, ascetic practices become more 
common, widespread, and intense, - till sometimes whole 
communities seem to be smitten by a mania for self- 
abasement, self-imposed hardships, and severe austerities.'^ 

^ The same feeling is manifest in " the Christian idea of self -sacrifice 
and the Christian doctrine that it is through such sacrifice that God reveals 
Himself in man." — Caird's Evolution of Religion, vol. ii. p. 258. 

^ The causes which favoured the development of asceticism amongst the 
Christians of the primitive Church are well stated in Pressens^'s Histoire 
des Trois Premiers Sitcles, Quatrieme Serie, pp. 523-39. 

7 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Similar results are also sometimes produced when intense 
religious excitement has awakened thrilling expectations, 
as in the early Church, when entire congregations, believing 
the end of all earthly things to be imminent, gave up their 
possessions and retired to the desert to await the second 
Advent of the Lord ; and as, indeed, that peculiar sect, 
the Russian Doukhobors, have done in the broad daylight 
of our own time, to the amusement of an unbelieving 
generation. 

An ardent desire on the part of religious enthusiasts 
to imitate the life of the founder of their own religion or 
sect, such founder being almost invariably an aseetic and a 
contemner of the things of this vjorld, has also been a potent 
influence in originating and perpetuating schemes of life, 
or particular practices which savour of self-denial more or 
less rigid. 

It would appear that all religions hold that in the 
thoughts, desires, and actions of every individual there 
are present elements which, unless conquered, modified, 
or neutralised in some way or other, disquahfy him from 
attaining that unending rest or that most desirable beati- 
tude in a future state of existence which the world-prophets 
have so freely promised mankind. The disqualifying 
elements above referred to as hindering the religious in 
the realisation of their aspirations, although difiering re- 
markably in the various cults, may for convenience be 
included in the one term sinfulness. 

Now, what is the cause of this sinfulness so disastrous 
to the highest interests of humanity ? That is a question 
which has perplexed the ages ; but of all the doctrines 
which men have propounded in their endeavours to solve 
this permanent enigma of existence, probably none has had 
more subtle and potent influence than that which holds 
that spirit is eternally pure and matter inherently bad. 

These ideas, of immemorial antiquity and far-reaching 
influence in the East, found their way to Europe in the 
earlv centuries of our era in connection with Manichseism 
and Gnosticism, and though condemned and suppressed by 
the Papacy, aided by the strong arm of the secular power, did 
not fail to make a deep impression on Western thought. 

8 



ASCETICISM: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

If the doctrine in question be accepted, it is plain that 
man's corporeal frame comes directly under condemnation, 
and it also follows that spirit being pure, the flesh and its 
lusts are responsible for the sins which man commits. Hence, 
for the preservation of the soul and the furtherance of its 
aspirations, it is necessary that the body, with its senses, 
appetites, and desires, should be kept under restraint, 
should be mortified and suppressed ; the logical outcome 
of this train of reasoning being the ascetic practices so highly 
honoured in all the great religious systems.^ 

By the Hindu speculative theologians, asceticism with 
a view to the repression of the animal passions is regarded, 
in accordance with their dualistic theories, as a means to 
the purification of the mind, such purgation being, as they 
say, an essential condition for the attainment of a complete 
knowledge of Brahman, with its attendant freedom from 
samsara, that is, embodied existence,^ which freedom, we 
shall find, is the great aim and object of Hindu religious 
life. And the purification of the body by ascetic practices is 
also held by Hindu theologians as a necessary condition for 
even that temporary communion, in this life, of the human 
soul with the Divine Spirit, which is the object of the ecstatic 
hope of many a religious man in India. 

In the East generally, and in India particularly, man's 
corporeal frame has been for ages considered the great 
hindrance to the attainment by spirit of its proper destinj^, 
whether that destiny be, as the Buddhists teach, a release 
from the evils of successive rebirths with ultimate nirvana, 
or, as the Hindus hold, direct union with and absorption into 
the Universal Spirit. And whatever ofcher views may have 
been held, the human body has, under religious zeal, been 
sacrificed in almost all countries to the supposed advan- 
tage of the soul ; and this suppression of natural desires, 
often combined with positive ill- treatment of the body, for 

^ True, the Christian Church prescribed penances on other grounds also, 
holding that even for sin duly repented of a temporal penalty was still due, 
and, in order to afford a means for the satisfaction of this obligation, the 
penitential discipline of the Church made provision in the form of fastings, 
flagellations, pilgrimages, and fines. 

" The Upanishads and Sri Sankara's Commentary, translated by S. 
Sitarama Sastri, B.A,, vol. i. especially p. 85. 

9 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

spiritual ends, is what we now usually call asceticism,^ 
though, curiously enough, amongst the Greeks it meant 
that abstinence from sensual indulgences which was neces- 
sary for the preservation of the body in a fit state for 
athletics. 

Of those who undergo mortifications, the majority, what- 
ever their creed may be, probably confine their austerities 
to an occasional fast or a periodical abstinence from par- 
ticular kinds of food ; bat everywhere a minority can be 
found of sensitive natures, who, more deeply affected by 
world-weariness, and spurred on by the uncontrollable 
excitement of intense rehgious enthusiasm, wilHngly exhaust 
ingenuity in afflicting themselves with cruel pains and 
penalties. Early Christian history provides abundant 
examples of this latter type ; but they are not peculiar to 
Christendom, as we shall presently see. Such heroic con- 
tempt of pain and pleasure as these extreme ascetics dis- 
play commands the wondering attention and respectful 
homage of the multitude. The voluntary sufferers become 
objects of veneration ; fame makes itself busy with their 
doings ; wonders are attributed to them, and, by a curious 
irony, spiritual pride and vanity play no unimportant part 
in encouraging religious asceticism. The reason is obvious. 
The reputation for sanctity which accompanies self-re- 
pression and detachment from the world brings with it 
not only popular admiration, but often so much substantial 
power also, that many ambitious men and seekers after 
pubUcity are attracted into the ranks of the ascetics in 
order to enjoy these congenial and by no means incon- 
siderable advantages. 

It happens not infrequently that the spectacle is pre- 
sented of the contemporaneous existence of unbounded 
luxury and the most austere asceticism ; one being the 
result of the success of the few, the other of the failure 
of the many. In such times the ascetic, the renunciant, 

^ Strange as it may seem, suffering in itself comes, in the case of some 
highly emotional natures, to be regarded as desirable. St. Theresa, for 
example, says, " Suffering alone can make life tolerable to me. My greatest 
desii-e is to suffer. Often and often I cry out to God from the depths of my 
soul, ' Either to suffer or to die is all I ask of Thee.' " — Joly's Psychology 
of the Saints, p. 168. 

10 



ASCETICISM : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

becomes the popular ideal of a great man, the guide and 
leader of the people, the friend of the poor, and the scornful 
contemner of the exalted. In such times the spirit of 
asceticism may penetrate into the very highest grades of 
society, where it could least be expected to find admission, 
though the reasons for this would not be difficult of com- 
prehension in most cases, could one but get a glimpse be- 
hind the curtains of private life. For it is not only dis- 
comfiture in the open world -strife that brings men to 
despondency ; domestic disappointments and the ordinary 
disillusionments of life may drive even the rich and highly 
placed to seek peace in the retirement of the cloister or in 
philosophical resignation coupled with contemptuous indiffer- 
ence to worldly advantages.^ 

Even when dominated by ascetic zeal and the spirit of 
self-sacrifice, the majority of men are gregarious in their 
instincts. So it happens that many brethren in misfortune, 
renouncing the world and what they call its hollow sinful 
pleasures, gather together, for mutual improvement and 
encouragement, in religious communities, which later on 
develop into conventual establishments or monasteries 
governed by fixed rules. Hither gravitate the disappointed, 
the world-weary. Here in troubled times many seek peace 
and protection, and here too a few, attracted by the tran- 
quilKty of the cenobitic life, come from a sheer love of God 
and a desire for silent and constant communion with 
Him. 

Like other ideas and other sentiments which have for 
a time obtained general currency or acceptance, those con- 
nected with practical asceticism have a tendency to languish 
when the causes which stimulated them into special activity 
have died out. But though the spirit of asceticism may 
seem at certain flourishing periods of history to be extinct, 
it can never be quite so while the tedium of existence 
presses upon weary souls, and while sorrow, want, and 

^ An interesting Indian instance of this is the poet and Prime Minister 
Manaka-Vasagur, who in the eighth century a.d. gave up his high position 
to devote himself in seclusion and penury to the worship of Siva, as the 
supreme ruler of the universe. His poems preserved in Southern India 
are said to breathe a true emotional piety. — Journal, Royal Asiatic Society, 
April 1901, pp. 346-48. 

II 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

misery exist in this world. It slumbers, perhaps, but is 
ready to quicken whenever circumstances happen which 
make the burden of life for the majority too heavy for 
patient endurance. In prosperous times the attractions of 
the far-off heavens lose something of their force in the 
presence of the nearer and more tangible allurements of 
the day, but, as soon as the fierce struggle for existence 
becomes calamitous to the major portion of any community, 
the discomfiture of the many once more revives from its 
still warm embers the dormant spirit of asceticism ; and 
then, new religions, or at least new religious leaders, arise 
amongst the wretched and downtrodden, to teach again the 
expediency and beauty of the renunciation of all worldly 
desires, and to point the way, perhaps a new way, to a 
delectable existence beyond the grave. Even the rushing 
stream of modern European life has its quiet backwaters 
into which the world-weary drift silently and unobserved, 
resigning themselves, in dismal monasteries and religious 
establishments, to such austerities as they believe will 
enhance the heavenly reward to which they look forward 
with childlike confidence or timid hope. 

Nothing is more certain than that, when individuals or 
communities are suffering from widespread calamities and 
great national troubles of whatever nature, their thoughts 
turn imploringly towards their gods and longingly towards 
heaven, as surely as the magnetic needle seeks the Pole. 
For the prosperous this earth has its attractions and its 
rewards, but for the unfortunate and downtrodden there 
is only the promised hereafter. Hence it is obvious that 
religion flourishes best where the conditions of life have 
been most unfavourable for the majority. Now, India 
has for decades of centuries suffered in no slight degree 
from certain depressing circumstances most conducive to 
the production of individual and national despondency. 
Religion of the gloomy type has consequently alwa3^s 
flourished there, and with it asceticism also, exaggerated 
and intensified by the fact that India is the head -centre 
of the doctrine of the eternal antagonism between spirit 
and matter. 

The most cursory consideration of facts will bear 

12 



ASCETICISM: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

out the above statement. Too often, for example, have 
the invasion and conquest of the wide open plains of 
North 3rn India proved a comparatively easy operation, 
harmful to the dwellers there and baneful even to the 
conquerors ; for, enervated by an indolent Kfe in those 
warm productive valleys, each successful race of invaders 
has had to give way before new and more energetic 
conquerors, destined in their turn to a similar fate. Again, 
vast stretches of level country like those which lie beneath 
the mighty Himalayan mountain range are undoubtedly 
suited for, are indeed the natural homes of, despotisms, 
under which individualism and many of the finer qualities 
of men and races get gradually smothered. And despotic 
governments, whether native or foreign, have for many 
centuries ruled over these lands. From very early times, 
too, a rigid system of hereditary castes was adopted in 
India, by which the spheres and occupations of all classes 
of the community were strictly defined and enforced, 
thereby limiting the ambitions and cramping the energies 
of the entire Hindu people. 

Geographical and climatic conditions have also favoured 
the occurrence, at longer or shorter intervals, of appalling 
pestilences and famines of stupendous proportions, while, 
as the Sanskrit epics clearly show, for ages dense forests 
and malarial swamps covered a considerable portion of 
the land. Under such circumstances it necessarily came 
to pass that in the warmth of the steamy plains of India 
successive generations of men and women were stimulated 
into early maturity and doomed to early decay, afflicted 
perpetually with a morbid fatigue both physical and 
mental. 

It is true we cannot recall details of the prolonged 
night of trouble through which the Indian people have 
passed, for they have written no history of themselves, 
left behind them no chronicles. But this fact itself is 
the most impressive, convincing, and pathetic proof of 
their state of depression and hopelessness through long 
ages, since flourishing nations endued with energy, 
buoyed up with hope, and enjoying reasonable liberty, 
never fail to hand down to admiring posterity the record 

13 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

of their doings ; while, on the other hand, in gloomy 
periods of stagnation and oppression, not only is the 
healthy stimulus to the production of historical writings 
absent, but there is also ever present a powerful deterrent 
in the dread of offending the oppressors which paralyses 
the Land of the would-be historian. 

Besides the already noted causes predisposing the 
Indians to habits of despondency and rehgious quietism, 
there are others which have also contributed towards 
the same end. One of these is the strictly vegetarian 
diet of a majority of the people, which diet, even if 
always sufficiently nutritious, would certainly have, in the 
course of successive generations, a cumulative tendency to 
induce a patient, inaggressive, and probably despondent 
habit of mind, with physical indolence and apathy in its 
train. Then, again, the Indian people have always had 
amongst them in profusion the soporific poppy and the 
hemp plant, whose narcotic products were discovered early, 
and their drowsy fascinations extensively appreciated.^ 

Finally, the study of the psychology of the Indian 
people reveals to us that, combined with intellectual 
quahties of the highest order, their most striking char- 
acteristics are imaginativeness, emotionahsm, mysticism, 
credulity, religious fervour and impressionability,^ all in 
a very exaggerated degree. 

^ There is a popular belief that the habit of smoking originated with the 
use of tobacco after the discovery of America at the end of the fifteenth 
century ; but, whatever may be the fact as regards tobacco, there is ample 
evidence to show that the barks and leaves of certain plants, also sawdust 
and mushrooms of sorts, as well as opium and hemp, have since remote 
antiquity been smoked in the East and Africa, and in Europe too. Some- 
times, as in the case of the Scythians described by Herodotus, the smoke 
was used simply as a fumigant in a closed tent for producing exhilarating 
effects, but more commonly the pipe, with a bowl as we know it, was used, 
and, as might have been expected, archaeologists have not failed to obtain 
an ample supply of these articles from ancient tumuli and deposits which 
date back many centuries. — Revue Encydopidique, 3rd April 1897. 

2 Dr. James Esdaile, so well known in India some fifty or sixty years 
ago as a most successful surgical operator under mesmeric influence, came 
to the conclusion, after certain experiments in Scotland, that only " the 
depressing influence of disease will be found to reduce Europeans to the 
impressible condition of the nervous system so common among the Eastern 
nations." — Dictionary of National Biography. 



ASCETICISM: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

To sum up, then, it would appear that, under the 
combined influence of the physical, political, and social 
conditions referred to, aided powerfully by the intellectual 
and moral peculiarities of the people, a dull stagnation 
has been for ages the unenviable lot of the masses of the 
Indian people — a state very conducive to mental depression 
and gloomy religious speculations, leading naturally to 
abnegation and ascetic living. Hence it came to pass that 
the ancient lawgiver was able, with a reasonable hope of 
success, to model the ordinary life of the Hindu upon a 
wide basis of poverty, renunciation, and retirement from 
the world. As prescribed in the sacred Shastras of the 
Hindus, the ideal life for the three superior castes begins 
with mendicancy and ends with asceticism, according to 
the following scheme, which divides the ordinary span of a 
man's existence into four well-marked periods. 

1. Early yoiMh, which should be passed as a Brah- 
machari or reUgious student living on alms. 

2. Manhood, during which period the "twice -born" 
man should, as a Grihasta, devote himself to household 
duties and the rearing of a family. 

3. Middle age, which should be spent as a Bana- 
prastha or forest recluse, with or without one's wife. In 
regard to food, the hermit should restrict himself to the 
spontaneous products of the earth obtained by himself, 
and should abstain, under all circumstances, from partaking 
of anything grown in towns or the produce of any man's 
labour. 

4. The closing period of life, during which final stage 
the good Hindu should become a Sanyasi, abandoning all 
sensual desires and Uviny by mendicancy on the charity of 
others. 

This is not the place to discuss what baneful ejects 
such a scheme for the conduct of individual life, if acted 
upon generally, would inevitably produce upon national 
character and national resources, and such considerations 
would, in all probability, have been of quite insignificant 
importance in the eyes of the Hindu lawgiver. Nor need 
we pause to estimate the extent to which this ideal scheme of 
life has brought about the accepted low standard of comfort 

15 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and the extreme simplicity of living in India. But it is 
necessary to draw attention to the encouragement and 
sanction which the divinely appointed Hindu ideal of 
life gives to mendicancy as well as retirement from the 
world, because the inevitable result of this has been that 
no Hindu feels ashamed to beg or to abandon the duties 
of citizenship at an age when he might be a productive 
worker for the general good.^ 

It has been argued that the ideal scheme of life with 
its fourfold division was instituted really in opposition to 
sadhuism, as it postpones the adoption of the ascetic life 
to a time when a man would, in ordinary course, be too 
feeble to endure all its hardships. But, while it is doubtful 
whether there is any truth whatever in this contention, 
no unprejudiced person will deny that the scheme itself 
countenances and enjoins a system of asceticism of un- 
paralleled scope, for it embraces every superior individual 
within the pale of Hinduism. 

It may be added that the strong restraint which natural 
solicitude for the comfortable maintenance of one's family 
would ordinarily exercise upon the decision of a parent, 
husband, son, or brother disposed to abandon his home, 
is considerably weakened amongst Hindus by the co- 
operative system which prevails amongst them, under 
which, in ordinary circumstances, the burden of supporting 
the family — this term being understood in a wide sense — 
would fall upon and be shared alike by all the male 
members thereof. Indeed, this joint system, although not 
without its advantages, does undoubtedly encourage un- 
profitable idleness, leading in many cases to the adoption 
of a life of respectable vagrancy under the convenient 
mask of religion. 

Without any pretence of an exhaustive analysis of the 
various and complex motives which underlie religious 
asceticism, I may before concluding this chapter draw 
attention to what appear to me to be the more general 
reasons which prompt men to ascetic practices : (1) A 
desire, which is intensified by all personal or national 

^ " The Power and Beauty of Beggary " is the subject of an article by 
an Indian journahst in East and West for December 1901 (Bombay). 

i6 



ASCETICISM: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

troubles, to propitiate the Unseen Powers. (2) A longing 
on the part of the intensely religious to follow in the 
footsteps of their master, almost invariably an ascetic. 
(3) A wish to work out one's own future salvation, or 
emancipation, by conquering the evil inherent in himian 
nature, i.e. the flesh. (4) A yearning to prepare oneself 
by purification of mind and body for entering into present 
communion with the Divine Being. (5) Despair arising 
from disillusionment and from defeat in the battle of life. 
And lastly, mere vanity, stimulated by the admiration 
which the multitude bestow upon the ascetic. 

I have, I hope, made it sufficiently clear that the 
political and other causes which induce the frame of mind 
wherein the above-stated reasons are most operative, have 
for ages existed in India in a more than ordinary degree. 

What other powerful, and peculiarly Indian, motives 
stimulate the ascetic practices of the sadhus will be 
mentioned in the next chapter. 



B 17 



CHAPTER II 

SOME PECULIAR AND DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS 

OF HINDU ASCETICISM 



Hindu Idea of the unbounded Power over Nature attainable through 
Ascetic Practices — The Rationale of this Notion — Examples of Power 
acquired by Asceticism cited from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, 
the Siva Purana, and the Vishnu Purana — The Supreme Being Himself 
practises Austerities — Rivalry of Sects gives rise to Legends of Con- 
flicts, based on successful Ascetic Practices, between rival Leaders — 
Titanic Conflict between Vasishta and Visvamitra, also between Nanak 
and the Siddhas — Hindu Asceticism has usually no relation to Ethics. 

ENDEAVOURED to show in the last 
chapter that asceticism was fostered in 
India by causes which have given birth 
to similar developments elsewhere, and 
that owing to special circumstances, 
referred to in some detail, it has 
assumed a chronic form in the country 
to the south of the Himalayas. But 
there are striking peculiarities about 
Hindu asceticism which differentiate 
it from that associated with Buddhism, 
Christianity, or Islam ; and to these 
pecuHarities, and the motives mider- 
lying them, I now invite attention. 

All the most esteemed sages of 
India are believed to have practised 
austerities. The great poets, too, even 
the more modern ones, such as Tulasi 
Das, author of the Hindi Ramayana, and Jayadeva, author 
of the Gita-Govinda, were religious devotees and thauma- 
turgists of the highest order.^ Martial heroes, and demigods 

1 Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, by Professor H. H. Wilson, 
pp. 41-43. 

i8 




SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

like Arjuna and Rama, are credited with ascetic practices ; 
but it is decidedly startling to learn that the gods them- 
selves have undergone self-inflicted tortures for the attain- 
ment of the objects of their desires. Referring to this 
point, the late Professor Sir Monier Williams wrote as 
follows : ^ " According to Hindu theory, the performance 
of penances was hke making deposits in the bank of 
heaven. By degrees an enormous credit was accumulated 
which enabled the depositor to draw to the amount of 
his savings, without fear of his drafts being refused 
payment. The power gained in this way by weak mortals 
was so enormous, that gods as well as men were equally 
at the mercy of these all but omnipotent ascetics, and 
it is remarkable that even the gods are described as 
engaging in penances and austerities, in order, it may be 
presumed, not to be outdone by human beings. Siva was 
so engaged when the god of love shot an arrow at him ! " ^ 
The genesis of these notions, so extravagant and far- 
fetched in appearance, is, I think, susceptible of explanation. 
From the accepted doctrine that ascetic practices, by con- 
quering the evil tendencies of matter — that is, the flesh, 
— purify the imprisoned spint, and render it fit for re- 
union with the Absolute Being, the Hindu thinker might 
reasonably argue that as the austerities were increased and 
intensified the probability of the wished-for reunion of the 
ascetic's soul with the Absolute Being would become 
greater and greater, and that by virtue of such approaching 
reunion the power of the soul over matter and natural 
phenomena generally would also grow more and more 
effective. This being conceded, the next step would be to 
gauge a man's unknown supernatural powers by his self- 
\\ inflicted tortures ; and conversely, if one desired superhuman 

I ^ Indian Epic Poetry, note to p. 4. 

[ I ^ To the Indian notion of merits hoarded up for future use, a curious 
resemblance may be traced in the idea that " the Church possessed a 
' treasure ' in the merits of Christ and of the saints and martyrs, from which 
' treasiure ' could be drawn upon, from time to time, satisfaction for the 
|,| penalties of sin ; " an idea which underlay the Romish practice of granting 
^indulgences. See Canon Knox Little's St. Francis of Assist, chap. viii. 
5)Ef Going a step further, " the friars took upon themselves to distribute the 
5f surplus merit of their order." — Social England, by Traill and Mann, vol. 
i!ii. p. 372. 

19 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

power for the accomplishment of any definite object, he 
would resort to austerities to gain his end. What a 
plentiful crop of extravagant myths and legends could, 
and did, spring out of such ideas, is clearly shown in Hindu 
literature, which may now be drawn upon for a few typical 
examples requisite for the exposition of the subject. 

In the Mahabharata it is related of two brothers, 
daitijas of the race of the great Asura, that they under- 
took a course of severe austerities with the momentous 
object " of subjugating the three worlds." They clothed 
themselves in the bark of trees, wore matted hair, be- 
smeared themselves with dirt from head to foot, and in 
solitude, upon the lone mountains, endured the greatest 
privations of hunger and thirst. They stood for years on 
their toes, with their arms uplifted and their eyelids wide 
open. Not content with these sore penances, they, in 
their zeal, cut off pieces of their own flesh and threw them 
into the fire. The Vindhya mountains, on which these 
determined ascetics had placed themselves, became heated 
by the fervour of their austerities, and the gods beholding 
their doings, and alarmed for the consequences that might 
ensue, did everything in their power to divert them from 
the strict observance of their vows. The gods " tempted 
the brothers by means of every precious possession and 
the most beautiful girls," ^ but without success. Then 
the celestials tried " their powers of illusion," making it 
seem to the ascetics that " their sisters, mothers, wives, 
and other relatives, with dishevelled hair and ornaments 
and robes, were running towards them in terror, pursued 
and struck down by a Rakshasa with a lance in hand. 
And it seemed that the women implored the help of the 
brothers, crying, ' 0, save us ! ' " ^ 

Even this harrowing scene of domestic affliction failed 
to shake the constancy of the ascetics to their vows, and 

1 Mahabharata — Adi Parva, section ccxi. Babu Protap Chandra Roy's 
translation. 

2 This temptation of the earnest ascetic, especially when engaged in | 
severe austerities, is not confined to Hinduism, instances being easily ; 
found in the history of all the religions of Asiatic origin, not excluding 
Christianity, and is an unmistakable indication of the general and wide- 
spread beUef in the potency of self-mortifications. 

20 



I 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

Brahma was at last obliged to grant them very extensive 
powers and privileges, including complete immunity from 
danger except at each other's hands. When these suc- 
cessful ascetics returned home they arrayed themselves in 
costly robes, wore precious ornaments, " caused the moon 
to rise over their city every night," and from year's end 
to year's end indulged in continual feasting and every 
kind of amusement. Evidently, no thought of sin or 
expiation nor any regard for virtue entered into the con- 
sideration of the objects kept in view by these resolute 
daitya brothers. The above story shows clearly the exist- 
ence of an underlying idea that the practisers of austerities, 
whoever they might be, appropriate energy, as it were, 
from some universal store, and that they are thus 
strengthened at the expense of the rest. Consequently, 
when their voluntary penances exceed certain limits they 
become a terror to all other beings. Hence we learn, 
without surprise, that, when one of these dangerous ascetics 
eventually met his death, all nature was exceedingly re- 
lieved and rejoiced accordingly. 

Another story in the same sacred epic tells of a king 
who underwent ascetic penances to obtain a child. ^ It 
is also recorded of a certain monarch that he did the 
same to secure the assistance of the god Rudra in the 
performance of a great sacrifice.^ 

One rishi, the muni Aurva of the Brighu race, influ- 
enced by a fierce craving for vengeance on account of 
some wrongs suffered by his ancestors, subjected himself 
to the direst penances for " the destruction of every 
creature in the world," and was only persuaded to desist 
from his terrible purpose by the intercession of the Pitris 
or souls of his forefathers.^ 

We have also the case of Princess Amva of Benares, 
who practised the most terrible austerities for many 
years for the destruction of Bhishma, and was gratified by 
the god Mahadeva, who promised that in her next life 
she should be "a fierce warrior who would destroy the 
hated Bhishma. Upon this, that faultless maiden of the 

^ Mahabharata — Adi Parva, section ccxvii. 

2 Ibid, section ccxxv. ^ ii,id. section clxxxi. 

21 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

fairest complexion, the eldest daughter of the King of 
Ka9i, procured wood from that forest in the very sight 
of those great rishis, made a large funeral pyre on the banks 
of the Yamuna, and having set fire to it, herself entered 
that blazing fire with a heart burning mth wrath, uttering 
the words, ' I do so for Bhishma's destruction ! ' " i The 
princess was reborn in due course, and, needless to say, 
was the instrument of Bhishma's death. 

The Ramayana aifords us many instances of exceptional 
powers and privileges acquired by ascetic practices. For 
example, the ten-headed Rakshasa, Ravana, had, by long 
and painful austerities, obtained from Brahma the boon 
that neither god nor demon should be able to deprive him 
of his life. Protected by this decree of the Creator, the 
ten-headed Rakshasa became a terror to the world, but 
he had, in his pride, omitted to ask for protection against 
wien. Taking advantage of this oversight, the god Vishnu 
became incarnate as Rama, and, after wonderful adventures, 
eventually destroyed the troublesome demon-king. 

A somewhat similar story is told in the same epic about 
the Rakshasa Viradha, who had by his asceticisms obtained 
the privilege of being proof against every kind of weapon. 
However, he met his fate at the hands of Rama, who over- 
came him, not with weapo7is, but with his fistSj and flung 
him into a deep pit. 

In the Siva Purana there is a story of a daiiya (demon) 
named Tarika, who, by voluntarily undergoing eleven dis- 
tinct forms or methods of self -mortification, each extending 
over a period of one hundred years, so alarmed Indra 
and the lesser gods that they went to Brahma to beseech 
him to frustrate the ambitious designs of this terrible 
ascetic. The Supreme Being had to admit that he could 
not resist such austerities, and was constrained to reward 
them ; but he told his petitioners that, after granting the 
boon for which Tarika had inflicted so much suffering upon 
himself, he (Brahma) would devise a plan of ultimately 
neutralising the demon's long labours. What Tarika sought 
was, *' that he should be unrivalled in strength, and that 
no hand should slay him, but that of a son of Mahadeva 

^ Babu Proktp Chandra Roy's translation. 

22 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

(the god Siva)." This boon having been conceded, as 
indeed it had to be, the demon, in his pride of power, 
tyrannised over the lesser gods, and kept the entire 
universe in terror, himself feeling perfectly safe, as he 
reckoned confidently that the austere Mahadeva would 
never be the father of a son. In this, however, he mis- 
calculated, and in the fulness of time his destruction was 
accomplished.^ 

The above three legends of Ravana, Viradha, and Tarika, 
besides being good examples of privileges wrung by ascetic 
practices from the reluctant gods, illustrate the appreciation 
which the Eastern has always felt for the crafty overreach- 
ing of a dangerous foe. 

It is related in the Vishnu Purana ^ that a certain 
King Uttanapada had two wives, each of whom bore him 
a son. One day the king, seated on his throne, was fond- 
ling on his knee the son of his favourite wife, while his 
other son, Dhruva, a child of only five years of age, who 
happened to be present, attempted, quite naturally, to 
share the same privilege. The favourite queen, Suruchi, 
who was at hand, lectured the little one rather haughtily 
on his unbecoming presumptuousness, telHng him that the 
throne was a fit seat for her son, but certainly not for him. 
Abashed and indignant, little Dhruva withdrew to his own 
mother's apartments, and there unburdened his bursting 
heart of its feelings of anger and mortification. His dis- 
tressed mother tried to console the sulky child, and 
recommended, with true Indian feeling, the exercise of 
patience and the cultivation of a spirit of contentment ; 
but Dhruva was too deeply hurt to accept his mother's 
well-meant advice, and, infant though he was, said, 
*' Mother, the words that you have addressed to me for 
my consolation find no place in a heart that contumely 
has broken. I will exert myself to obtain such elevated 
rank that it shall be revered by the whole world. Though 
I be not bom of Suruchi, the beloved of the king, you 
shall behold my glory, who am your son. Let Uttama, my 
brother, possess the throne given to him by my father ; I 

^ Moor's Hindu Pantheon, London, 1810, pp. 51-63. 

^ Professor H. H. Wilson's translation, bk. i. ch. xi. and xii. 

23 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

wish for no other honours than such as my own actions 
shall acquire, such as even my father has not enjoyed." 
Cherishing these aspirations, the very precocious infant 
prince, in quest of the highest honour and glory, followed 
a course which no European child or man, with a similar 
object in view, could dream of entering upon. Dhruva, 
who, it will be remembered, was only five years of age, 
left the city " and entered an adjoining thicket, where he 
saw seven munis ^ sitting upon hides of the black antelope." 
Explaining to these holy sages the circumstances which 
had drawn him forth from his royal home, and his ardent 
wishes for the attainment of a lofty position, he respectfully 
asked for their advice. The saints were good enough to 
listen to the child, to recommend the worship of Vishnu 
and to instruct him in the path he should pursue. 
" Prince," said the rishis. " thou deservest to hear how the 
adoration of Vishnu has been performed by those who have 
been devoted to his service. His mind must first be made 
to forsake all external impressions, and a man must then 
fix it steadily on that being in whom the world is. By 
him whose thoughts are thus concentrated on one only 
object and wholly filled by it, whose spirit is firmly under 
control, the prayer that we shall repeat to thee is to be 
invariably recited : ' Om ! glory to Vasudeva, whose essence 
is divine wisdom, whose form is inscrutable, or is manifest 
as Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.' " 

To work out his great project, the little prince repaired 
to a holy place on the banks of the Jumna, and there 
followed very carefully the instructions he had received 
from the rishis, with the gratifying result that Vishnu 
became manifest in his mind. When this occurred, the 
earth itself was unable to bear the weight of the diminutive 
ascetic. The celestials took alarm, and tried every art to 
disturb and distract his meditations, but all their efforts 
were ineffectual. Still more alarmed by their want of 

^ " Muni — a holy sage, a pious and learned person, endowed with more 
or less of a divine nature, or having attained to it by rigid abstraction and 
mortification. The title is applied to the rishis, and to a great number 
of persons distinguished for their wTitings considered as inspired, as Panani, 
Vyasa, etc." — Dawson's Dictionary of Hindu Mythology. 

24 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

success, the lesser gods appealed to Vishnu, addressing him 
thus : " God of gods, sovereign of the world, god supreme 
and infinite spirit, distressed by the austerities of Dhruva, 
we have come to thee for protection. As the moon 
increases in his orb day by day, so this youth advances 
incessantly towards superhuman power by his devotions. 
Terrified by the ascetic practices of the son of Uttanapada, 
we have come to thee for succour. Do thou allay the 
fervour of his meditations. We know not to what station 
he aspires, to the throne of Indra, the regency of the solar 
or lunar sphere, or to the sovereignty of riches or of the 
deep. Have compassion on us, lord ; remove the affliction 
from our breasts, divert the son of Uttanapada from per- 
severing in his penance." 

To allay the fears of the gods, and for the general good, 
Vishnu at last came down to earth in person and granted 
the boy-ascetic's wish to obtain " an exalted station, superior 
to all others, and one that shall endure for ever." This 
ambitious desire was gratified by Dhruva's exaltation to the 
skies, as the fole-star of the visible universe. 

This legend differs somewhat from the previous ones, 
inasmuch as it brings out very clearly the idea of the almost 
unimaginable efficacy of mental abstraction from human 
affairs when coupled with profound concentration of attention 
upon the Supreme Being alone. This is a decided modi- 
fication of the original doctrine, and will be referred to 
again. 

Myths and legends similar to those already given in 
the preceding pages of this chapter may be indefinitely 
multiplied, showing that, according to the beliefs of the 
Hindus, if one ardently coveted anything, the most effectual 
course to follow was to practise rigid austerities, self-denial, 
and suffering, till, in spite of the lesser gods, the Supreme 
Being would be constrained, by immutable and primordial 
laws, to grant the desired boon. But, more than that, we 
also learn that even the Supreme Being, " the cause of the 
creation and its course," endured, in the form of a rauni, 
the greatest self-inflicted penances for thousands of years 
on the Gandhamadana mountains by the lake Pushkara 
and on the banks of the Saraswati, apparently to obtain 

25 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sovereignty over all created things.^ Fantastical as these 
statements and notions, no doubt, appear to European 
apprehension, we may profitably pause to note that if the 
Hindu were to point out that a kindred idea seems to be 
at the root of the story of the Crucifixion, as well as of the 
motive assigned for that astounding voluntary humiliation 
on the part of the Deity, it would be impossible for the 
unbiassed seeker after truth to deny the validity of the 
contention, since in the *' cross and passion " of the Re- 
demption we distinctly find the notion of the efficacy of 
voluntary hardships, poverty, physical suffering, and death, 
for the attainment of a great object otherwise imachievahle 
even by the Deity Himself.^ 

I have no wish to labour this point, but I may in passing 
emphasise the fact that it is upon faith in the efficacy of 
self-inflicted hardships that Hindu asceticism, with its 
strange and cruel practices and its marvellous legends of 
superhuman feats, really rests, and that, according to 
Christian doctrine, mankind could not have been rescued 
from the Powers of Evil by any other means than the bitter 
sufferings and the supreme self-sacrifice of the second person 
of the Triune-God. 

No doubt, the Hindu has arrived at ideas of asceticism 
and its fruits other than those embodied in the legends 
cited in the foregoing pages : as, for example, when 
Sanatsujata said to Dritarashtra, " The words esteem and 
asceticism (practices of munis) can never exist together. 
Know that this world is for those that are candidates for 
esteem, while the other world is for those that are devoted 
to asceticism," ^ the object of the asceticism contemplated 
in this passage being spiritual emancipation, not worldly 
advancement or the gratification of desires of any kind. 
But the value of austerities for the attainment of practical 
ends, commendable or the reverse, and the power for good 

^ Mahabharata — Vana Parva, section xii. A zinc statuette in the India 
Musenm, South Kensington, figured in Moor's Hindu Pantheon, plate 3, 
represents the four-headed Brahma aa an ascetic with a rosary in one hand, 
a mendicant's water-pot in another, a sacrificial spoon in a third, and 
so on. 

^ The usual accompaniment of temptations is also not wanting. 

^ Mahabharata — Udyoga Parva, section xli. 

26 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

or evil possessed by the ascetic, are the considerations 
connected with asceticism which are most deeply graven 
on the Indian mind ; and this fact enables as to appreciate 
the standpoint from which the Hindu looks up to the 
sadhu who has practised, or may pretend to have practised, 
austerities, as one who might help him to gain his ends, 
or, on the other hand, might hurl a curse at him with the 
most direful consequences. 

Although I should hesitate to aver that the possibility 
of attaining power for good or evil has at any time been, 
for the majority of sadhus, the sole inducement for 
embracing the ascetic life, yet there can be little doubt 
that this possibility has always had a considerable fascina- 
tion for Hindus of all classes. But there are, and always 
will be, amongst good Hindus, many timid ones, weaker 
vessels, who shrink from pain or physical hardships of a 
severe kind, and yet long to attain and enjoy the sub- 
stantial fruits of asceticism ; and others also, mystics and 
dreamers, whose fervent emotionalism would discover a 
ready method for the reunion of the soul with the Infinite 
Spirit, without necessarily disdaining the possession of the 
much - coveted power over man and nature which such 
mystic union with the AJl-Spirit might involve. A case 
in point is the Dhruva myth narrated above, But the 
aspirations of the less resolute or more emotional spirits 
find most complete expression in the yoga system, described 
in a later chapter, its more salient features being posturings, 
abstraction, and concentration of mind. 

Where all believe in the efficacy of ascetic practices 
for the attainment of extraordinary powers, it is inevitable 
that the rivalry of classes and of sects should be productive 
of competing claims for their respective leaders in regard 
to superiority in supernatural potency. A characteristic 
example of this is the more than titanic old-world conflict 
of which Vasishta and Visvamitra are the heroes, between 
whom, says the Mahabharata,^ " there existed a great 
enmity, arising frmn rivalry in austerities?'' At the same 
time, since the two men named belonged to the sacerdotal 
and warrior castes respectively, their antagonism illustrates 

^ Gust's Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. i. p. 420. 

27 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

tlie early and vigorous struggle for supremacy between the 
castes they represented. 

The marvellous legend of their enmity and warfare 
is to be found variously related in both the great Indian 
epics, as well as in the Puranas ; but only the main out- 
lines of the story need be reproduced here. According to 
the chroniclers, King Visvamitra had in one of his ordinary 
hunting expeditions been entertained very sumptuously 
by the Brahman sage Vasishta in his forest hermitage. 
Discovering that the hermit was enabled to thus provide 
a magnificent feast, and costly presents too, in the midst 
of the wilderness, because he was the fortunate possessor 
of a wondrous " cow of plenty," the king became covetous, 
and expressed a wish to purchase the animal, offering no 
less than a hundred million cows, or even his entire 
kingdom, for her. 

Vasishta, however, declined to part with his " cow of 
plenty " on any terms whatever. 

At this unexpected rebuff, Visvamitra was so offended 
that he haughtily resolved to exercise his kingly pre- 
rogative and forcibly appropriate the object of his cupidity. 
But he had miscalculated. The marvellous cow, after a 
wonderful colloquy with her master, refused to move, 
and, when assailed by the king's attendants, created out 
of her own sweat, urine, excrement, etc., such hosts of 
strange warriors armed to the teeth that the royal army 
could not stand before them. In the battle which took 
place one hundred of the king's sons rushed upon Vasishta, 
but were at once reduced to ashes by a blast from the 
sage's mouth. Defeated and humiHated by the Brahman, 
the king turned to the only resource open to him, and 
resolved to acquire superhuman power by ascetic practices, 
solely with a view to an eventual triumph over the Brahman 
Vasishta. For this purpose he abandoned his kingdom, 
proceeded to the Himalaya mountains, and there for a long 
period subjected himself to the severest austerities. As a 
consequence, the great god Mahadeva appeared to him, 
presented him with celestial weapons, and instructed him 
in the use of these terrible instruments of destruction. 
Elated with pride, confident in his newly acquired powers, 

28 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

and thirsting for vengeance, Visvamitra hurried ofi to punish 
his victorious foe. He burnt down Vasishta's hermitage, and 
drove away, in headlong flight, all the dwellers in that quiet 
retreat. But the Brahman sage was not to be overcome 
even by the wondrous weapons of the gods. A battle 
ensued, and once more was demonstrated the unapproach- 
able superiority of the sacerdotal caste, even in the use of 
the deadly weapons of war. Visvamitra might now have 
been destroyed ; but, at the earnest intercession of the 
munis, the victorious Brahman stayed his hand and spared 
his vanquished enemy. Taught by bitter experience, 
Visvamitra now fully realised that only the acquisition of 
Brahmanhood could place him on an equality with Vasishta, 
and so once more he resorts to that infallible source of 
power, austerities. By self-inflicted hardships for a thousand 
years he earned a place in the heaven of royal sages, but 
was intensely dissatisfied with this reward ; yet, seeing no 
other way of attaining his object, he renewed and intensi- 
fied his mortifications, which were, however, interrupted by 
various episodes, one of them being an exploit on the part 
of the royal ascetic in translating to the celestial regions 
in his human body one Trisanku, who, banned by the 
priesthood, had appealed to Visvamitra for he]p. It was 
a terrific affair this introduction of Trisanku into heaven, 
for it was actively opposed by the celestials themselves, and 
it was not accomplished until Visvamitra had terrified the 
astonished gods by creating new stars and constellations of 
stars, and had even threatened, in his rage, that he would 
create another god Indra, or leave the world without any 
Indra at all. Indeed, the masterful ascetic actually began 
to call new gods into being, when the celestials yielded the 
point in dispute, and came to terms mth him. After this 
incidental war against heaven, the -royal ascetic renewed 
his austerities for a thousand vears, when Brahma 
announced to him that he had attained the rank of a rishi. 
By no means contented with this reward, the king con- 
tinued his self-inflicted penances, but for a short time fell 
into the snares of a lovely nymph of heaven, Menaka by 
name, who had been sent down to earth by the celestials 
expressly to attract Visvamitra' s attention and spoil his 

29 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

labours. After recovering liis self-command and dismissing 
the fascinating nymph kindly, the king went through 
another course of penances for a thousand years, and at 
the end of that period received from Brahma the dignity 
of mahdrishi (great rishi). He learned from the Supreme 
Being that he had not yet acquired that perfect control 
over his senses which would entitle him to the exalted 
distinction of Brahman-rishi which he coveted and had 
striven for. So the indomitable king, and mahdrishi now, 
put himself through a more rigorous course of austerities, 
involving the most painful bodily tortures, the maintaining 
of absolute silence, and the suspension of breathing for 
hundreds of years. 

"As he continued to suspend his breath, smoke issued 
from his head, to the great consternation of the three 
worlds. The gods, rishis, etc., then addressed Brahma. 
' The great muni Visvamitra has been allured and provoked 
in various ways, but still advances in his sanctity. If his 
wish is not conceded, he will destroy the three worlds by 
the force of his austerity. All the regions of the universe 
are confounded, no Hght anywhere shines ; all the oceans 
are tossed and the mountains crumble, the earth quakes 
and the wind blows confusedly. We cannot, Brahma, 
guarantee that mankind shall not become atheistic. Before 
the great and glorious sage of fiery form resolves to destroy 
(everything), let him be propitiated.' " ^ 

Accordingly, the gods, headed by Brahma, approached 
the mighty ascetic, hailed him as " Brahman-rishi y^^ and 
pronounced a blessing upon him. The Kshatriya king 
had thus, by thousands of years of intense mortification 
and stern self -discipline, attained the exalted rank of Brah- 
manhood. Yet, curiously enough, his special and final 
hope of triumphing over Vasishta, for which in fact he had 
voluntarily suffered and endured torments of body and 
mind through successive millenniums, was never gratified ; 
for, through the mediation of the gods, he was eventually 
reconciled to his still un vanquished foe. 

For us, the noteworthy points of this madly extravagant 
legend are: (1) the excellent illustration it affords of the 

* Muir's Sanskrit Texts, vol. i. p. 409. 
30 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

firm faith of the Hindus in asceticism as a means of obtaining 
superhuman power of the most astonishing kind ; (2) the all 
but unapproachable dignity of Brahmanhood, which was the 
lesson the Brahman inventors of the story expressly desired 
to impress upon their grossly credulous countrymen. 

As the above fantastic story relates to mytliical events 
of an extremely remote past, it might well be thought that 
the old world of marvels therein depicted has long ceased 
to exist for the Hindu ; but, to show that this is not the 
case, I shall now outline another legend which purports to 
record wonders of quite recent date, arising out of the pre- 
tensions of the modern Sikh sect, in the person of its original 
founder, Baba Nanak (1469-1539 a.d.), as against the far 
older sect of the Yogis} 

During a halt in one of those extensive wanderings 
which Baba Nanak loved to take in quest of wisdom, his 
faithful attendant Mardanah went about collecting fuel 
for their dhoonee or smoky fire. Not far from their 
temporary camping-ground there apparently lived some of 
those perfect Yogis known as Siddhas,^ and, as soon as 
Mardanah had got together a small quantity of fuel, one 
of these Siddhas came up and wantonly snatched it all 
away. Mardanah, deprived of the fruits of his labour, 
went back to his august master and related what had 
occurred. Nanak, without any exhibition of temper, 
immediately produced some fuel out of the folds of his 
flowing garments, and with these miraculously acquired 
combustibles Mardanah kindled the vesper fires. Baffled 
and vexed, the Siddhas raised a violent storm in order to 
extinguish Nanak' s dhoonee ; but its only effect was to 
scatter their own fuel and quench their own hearths. 
Notwithstanding their superhuman powers, the Siddhas 
were now reduced to wandering about^to get wood and fire 
for themselves ; but as Baba Nanak had commanded the 

1 Chap. VIII. 

^ Siddhas — a class of semi-divine beings of great purity and holiness, 
who dwell in the regions of the sky between the earth and the sun. They 
are said to be 88,000 in number. — Dawson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu 
Mythology, etc. 

The Siddhas referred to in the text are some of the eighty- four perfect 
Yogis specially venerated by the Yogi sect described in Chap. VIII. 

31 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

spirit or genius of fire to abstain from helping them, in 
the end the Siddhas were obliged to come to the Baba 
himself, and humbly entreat him to ignite their fuel for 
them. However, Nanak would consent to their request 
only on condition that Goraknath, their much-venerated 
chief, should send him one of his own ear-rings and one 
of his wooden shoes, as, presumably, tokens of acknow- 
ledgment of defeat. In order to test Nanak further, the 
Siddhas, smarting under their discomfiture, asked him to 
give them milk there and then. He did so immediately 
by merely commanding the water in a well close by to be 
converted into milk. The transmutation took place in 
obedience to the saint's behest, the milk thus produced 
welling up to the surface. 

Nanak's next miracle in this contest was bringing water 
from the Ganges, as the Siddhas had challenged him to 
provide them with fresh river-water for their morning 
bath. Mardanah was sent with a spade to trace a con- 
tinuous line from the distant river, and was instructed not 
on any account to look back. As he drew the spade 
along behind him a stream of water followed it, but, 
when he neared the spot where his master was seated, 
his curiosity prevailed over his habit of obedience, and, 
like Lot's wife, he turned his head round to look over liis 
shoulder. The stream which had flowed so far ceased to 
advance any farther. 

" Now," said the Siddhas boastfully, " we shall, by our 
own power, cause it to come along," but their efforts were 
all in vain. 

Chagrined by these displays of Nanak's superiority, his 
opponents resolved to perform certain marvels of their 
own. Some of the Siddhas began to fly about, or make 
their deerskins skim through the firmament, like ordinary 
denizens of the air. One boastful Siddha would ride on 
flames of fire, and another on a bit of a stone wall as if it 
were a horse. Nanak's stolid indifference to their displays 
of extraordinary power exasperated these thaumaturgists 
greatly, and they openly challenged him to do something 
similar to the wonders they had shown him, if only for 
his own credit's sake ; but the Baba protested that he 

32 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

was a humble man, and had nothing startling to show 
them, adding, however, that if they would hide themselves, 
he would find them wherever they might be. 

The Siddhas accepted the guru's challenge to the pro- 
posed game of hide-and-seek. One of them flew up into 
the heavens and hid there, another sought concealment 
in the recesses of the far Himalayas, a third secreted him- 
self in the bowels of the earth ; but Nanak soon found 
them, one and all, and dragged them forth from their 
hiding-places by the scalp-locks which adorned the crowns 
of their heads. Then it was Nanak's turn to hide himself, 
and that of the others to seek for him. What he did was 
to resolve his corporeal frame into its pristine elements — 
fire, air, earth, and water — while his soul was reunited 
wdth God. The Siddhas^ of course, could not find the 
disintegrated guru ; but he had told them before his dis- 
appearance how they might get him to come back if they 
were unable, as he foresaw they would be, to discover him. 
They were to place a small offering at the foot of the tree 
where he usually sat, and to pray to God for the return 
of Nanak, when he would reappear. Utterly discomfited, 
they did so, and the Baba graciously came back.^ 

There are, in both Hindu and Buddhist story, no 
end of similar marvellous contests, which, strange and 
whimsical as they may appear to the modern European, 
are, after all, only the deliriously extravagant Indian 
equivalents of the biblical contests between Moses and 
the Egyptian magicians (Ex. vii. 8-12), and between 
Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings xviii. 21-40), or 
of the traditional struggle between St. Peter and St. Paul 
on the one side and Simon Magus on the other. ^ Muslim 

^ Janam Sakhee. Guru Angad Sahib received- the account from Bala 
(another of Nanak's devoted attendants), and had Piramookha to write it 
down. 

2 In this trial of strength, carried out in the presence of the Roman 
Emperor Nero, the test consisted in raising a dead man to hfe and in putting 
to practical proof the claim of the magician that he could fly. In the first 
case Simon Magus failed utterly, while the apostles, of course, succeeded. 
Then the magician, to prove his power of sustaining himself in the air, leaped 
from a high tower, and seemed, for a time, to float in the atmosphere, no 
doubt supported by invisible demons; but, eventually overcome by the 
•superhuman power of the apostles, he fell to the earth, and, being mortally 

C 33 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

hagiography also abounds in trials of strength between 
rival leaders of the people, attended with striking displays 
of miraculous power on the part of the opponents.^ It is 
not too much to say that religious literature everywhere 
affords examples of appeals to striking works in attestation 
of the truth of the mission of the prophet or the holiness 
of the saint. ^ 

From the myths and legends cited above, a fair idea 
can be formed of the motives which the Hindu mind has 
deemed sufficient and proper for the most protracted and 
terrible self-mortifications imaginable, and it is also as 
clear as day that these motives have no conscious or un- 
conscious relation to ethics. 

Moreover, there is no denying the fact that, regarded 
from the ordinary standpoint of morals, the celebrated 
Hindu sages do not generally command especial admira- 
tion outside the charmed circle of their own countrymen. 
This, naturally enough, the Christian missionary was not 
slow to discover. On this subject the Rev. Mr. Ward 
of Serampore says — 

" These tupushivees (ascetics) are supposed to have 
been the authors of the most ancient of the Hindoo writ- 
ings, in some of which, it is admitted, sentiments are to 
be found which do honour to human nature. But it is 
equally certain that these sages were very httle afiected 

injured, died a few days later. This story is told by St. Justin (second 
century) and several others amongst the early Christian writers. 

It may be added that we learn from tradition that St. Matthew defeated 
certain redoubtable magicians in Ethiopia, and that his brother evangelist, 
St. John, came out triumphant from a contest with the high priest of Diana 
at Ephesus. — Lives and Legends of the Evangelists^ Apostles, and other 
Early Saints, by Mrs. Arthur Bell (George Bell & Sons, 1901). 

^ A good example of this is the very wonderful story of Sidi Ikhlef 
given in chap. x. of Colonel Trumelet's Les Saints de r Islam. 

- A recent writer says, " The monkish historians pit their heroes against 
each other. What Moschus tells us of orthodox monks is balanced by the 
tales of John of Ephesus about the Monophosytes, and Thomas of Marga is 
not outdone by either when he recounts the performances of his Nestorians. 
The monks competed against each other individually, and their achieve- 
ments were boasted of by the adherents of the various parties into which 
the later Christological controversies rent the Church." — The Spirit and 
Origin of Christian Monasticism, by James O. Hannay, M.A., pp. 172, 173 
(Methuen, 1903). 

34 



SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF HINDU ASCETICISM 

by these sentiments ; and perhaps the same might be said 
of almost all the heathen philosophers. Vushishthu inflicted 
on himself incredible acts of severity ; but in the midst of 
his devotions he became attached to a heavenly courtesan, 
and cohabited with her five thousand years. Purashuru, 
an ascetic, violated the daughter of a fisherman who was 
ferrying him over a river, from which intercourse sprang 
the famous Vyasu and the author of the Muhabharutu. 
Kupilu, an ascetic, reduced King Sagurus' sixty thousand 
sons to ashes, because they mistook him for a horse-stealer. 
Brigoo, in a fit of passion, kicked the god Vishnoo in the 
breast. Richeeku, for the sake of subsistence, sold his 
son for a human sacrifice. Doorvasa, a sage, was so 
addicted to anger that he was a terror both to gods and 
men. Ourvvu, another sage, in a fit of anger destroyed 
the whole race of Hoihuyu with fire from his mouth, and 
Doovasa did the same to the whole posterity of Krishnu. 
Javalee, an ascetic, stands charged with stealing cow's 
flesh at a sacrifice : when the beef was sought for, the 
saint, to avoid detection, turned it into onions ; and hence 
onions are forbidden to the Hindoos. The Pooranus, indeed, 
abound with accounts of the crimes of these saints, so famous 
for their religious austerities : anger and lust seem to have 
been their predominant vices." ^ 

Ward's indictment of the risJiis partakes of the obvious, 
yet the Christian missionary, while right as to his facts, 
has entirely failed to understand the mental constitution of 
the pantheistic Hindu, and has consequently been unable 
to appreciate the exalted position of the successful ascetic 
as compared both with his fellow-men and celestial beings, 
or to perceive his complete enfranchisement from ethical 
laws which might be binding upon ordinary humanity. 

These points will become clear as we proceed. 

* A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindus, pp. 286, 
287. Mr. Ward's spelling of the Sanskrit names has been retained, although 
it differs much from the modern style. 



35 



CHAPTER III 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS AND ELSEWHERE 



Sadhiis as seen at Fairs — Their Dress — Sect Marks and their Explanation — 
Hairdressing — Rosaries — Various Ornaments and their Significance — 
Sadhus' /Alms-bowls, Tongs, Arm-rests, Charas-pipes, Bhang- mortars, 
etc. — Hermitages — Ascetic Practices of various Kinds and Degrees — 
Minor Asceticisms — Posturings — Strange Purificatory Pvites. 

F the vast army of 
sadhus who roam 
about India, either 
alone or with com- 
panions, not many- 
have any settled 
home. There are, it 
is true, scattered all 
over the country, sub- 
stantial monasteries, 
but these afford only 
temporary abodes, 
and, so far as I know, 
are available as resi- 
dences only to a 
privileged few, who 
have some hereditary claim or pecuniary interest in the 
establishment. 

As a rule, the sadhus adopt a life of easy, irresponsible 
indolence and mendicancy. Their calendar of fairs and 
festivals is comprehensive and accurate. They know 
well how to time their devious wanderings so as to make 
them fit in with the festal events of each locality within 
their usual annual round of pilgrimages to sacred places, 
where, on all important occasions, they congregate in hosts, 

36 




SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

and where they may be studied to advantage as regards 
the peculiarities of their costume and external appearance 
generally. 

Leaving out of account, for the present, the thoughts, 
motives, beliefs, hopes, and aspirations of the sadhus, let 
us take a superficial survey of these interesting representa- 
tives of Indian mysticism, as they appear at, say, a great 
religious gathering on the Ganges. 

Amidst the bustle of the fair, amongst the moving 
crowd of ordinary pilgrims and cheerful holiday-makers, 
in the flying dust and round about the booths and 
tents, may be seen quaint figures robed in peculiar 
salmon-coloured garments. These are usually sadhus, 
salmon-colour being the prevailing though not universal 
tint of the raiment worn by such Hindu ascetics as care 
at all about clothing themselves, even in the somewhat 
scanty fashion of Brahmanic India. It is not, however, 
always on foot that the sadhus are to be seen. Some- 
times they appear in more lordly fashion, borne aloft 
on the backs of tall elephants in company with, or in 
attendance upon, the abbot of some considerable 
monastery or the high priest of some important 
temple. 

A great number of sadhus discard all attire but the 
scantiest of rags ; and amidst so much nudity one is not 
surprised to find that in their case the skin, for its mere 
protection from the sun's rays and insect pests, is usually 
rubbed over with ashes, prepared by some ascetics with 
the greatest care, being sifted repeatedly through folds of 
cotton cloth till quite as impalpable as any toilet powder. 
The application of this greyish-white powder to a dark 
skin gives a peculiar effect, which, I bejieve, is not without 
attractiveness in Indian eyes.^ 

Wherever many sadhus congregate, close inspection will 
soon reveal the fact that on their foreheads and noses 
most of them have white or coloured marks, neatly painted. 
Some have symbols also depicted on the breast and arms. 

^ Some folk-lorista suggest that Indian ascetics rub their bodies over 
with dust and ashes because these substances are potent scarers of demons. 
— W. Crookes, Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, pp. 29, 30. 

37 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

The tilaJcSj or tikas, as the forehead marks are called, may 

not be beauty spots, but they are worth looking at, for 

they serve as insignia of different sects. For example, one 

sadhu bears on his forehead the trifalu^ three lines drawn 

upwards from near the meeting of the eyebrows, the central 

line red, and the outer ones white, this being the sect 

mark of the Ramats. The red line is painted with roli, 

a preparation of turmeric and lime, the white lines with 

gopichandana, a calcareous clay procured from Dwarka out 

of a pool in which, according to the Krishna legend, the 

frail gopis (milkmaids) drowned themselves in despair 

upon hearing of the death of their lover, the divine 

Krishna. The triple lines of the trifala are not without 

significance, being emblematic of the three gods of the 

Hindu triad, the central line representing Vishnu, and 

those on the right and left respectively Siva and Brahma.^ 

Thus the trifala suggests and recalls to mind not only the 

Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, but also, at the 

same time, the amours of the gay god Krishna on the 

banks of the Yamuna. 

If for the red line in the trifala a black one (painted 
with charcoal from incense offered to Narayana) appears 
on a sadhu's forehead, he is one of the peculiar sect of the 
Madhavacharis. 

Again the tripundra^ three lines along the forehead 
from side to side, painted with vibuti or sacred ashes, 
distinguishes the Sivaite followers of Sankaracharya. 
" The Kowls (extreme saktas) usually betray their cult by 
painting their foreheads with vermilion dissolved in oil. 
The Dakhinacharis have generally an urdhapundra, or 
perpendicular streak, in the central part of the forehead, 
the colouring material being either a paste of sandalwood 
or a solution in ghi of charcoal obtained from a horn 
fire." 2 

More examples of sect marks need not be given now ; 
but it is necessary to state that such marks are not 

1 That other interpretations of the trifala are also offered, and accepted, 
need not surprise us. Vide Mr. C. W. King's The Gnostics and their 
Remains, p. 301. 

^ Dr. J. N. Bhattacharjee, Hindu Castes and Sects, pp. 411, 412. 

38 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

peculiar to professed sadhus, and appear also on the foreheads 
of Hindus who have not abandoned secular life. 

One has only to look in the most casual way at an 
assemblage of sadhus to find out that amongst them ':ome 
have their hair braided and coiled upon the anterior part 
of the crown of the head, and that others have their 
matted locks loose and shaggy. Men who wear their hair 
coiled up carefully upon the head are, irrespective of sect, 
called jhuttadarees ; those who wear their hair falling in 
disorder about the face, hhoureeahs. This latter style is 
adopted by a great number of monks, who, if we may 
judge by appearances, evidently desire to give themselves 
a forbidding and formidable look.^ 

Shaven pates may also be seen wherever Hindu 
ascetics, particularly of the more advanced orders, con- 
gregate. 

Most sadhus wear strings of beads about their necks 
or carry rosaries in their hands, reminding one that it was 
from the East, probably during the time of the Crusades, 
that Christendom borrowed these aids to devotion. From 
the nature of the prayer-beads worn by them it is usually 
easy to distinguish between the followers of the gods 
Vishnu and Siva respectively, according as they favour 
beads of the holy basil wood {ocymum sanctum) or the 
rough berries of the rudraksha tree (elcBocarpus ganitrus). 
If they wear two necklaces made of the wood of the basil 
plant (the tulsi or tulasi of the Indians), they are probably 
of the sect of the Swami Narayanis, who worship Krishna 
(Vishnu) and also his mistress Radha. 

It has been stated by the late Sir Monier Williams ^ 
and others, that the rosary {japa-mdld or muttering chaflet) 
of the votary of Siva consists of 32 or 64 rudraksha berries, 

^ " Magistrates in Northern India are often troubled by people who 
announce their intention of ' letting their hair grow ' at someone whom 
they desire to injure. This, if one can judge by the manifest terror ex- 
hibited by the person against whom this rite is directed, must be a very 
stringent form of coercion. For the same reason ascetics wear their hair 
loose and keep it uncut, as Samson did ; and the same idea probably 
accounts for the rites of ceremonial shaving of youths, and of the mourners 
after death." — W. Crookes, Pojndar Religion and Folk-lore of Northern 
India, i. 239. 

2 Modern India — Art : Indian Rosaries. 

39 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and that the follower of Vishnu affects one of 108 beads 
of basil wood. But, as I have seen rudraksha rosaries of 
108 berries, I presume the rule referred to is not very closely 
observed.^ 

The sadhus" self-adornment is not restricted to necklaces 
and rosaries. Some of them wear phallic emblems depend- 
ing from the neck by woollen threads, or fastened on the 
arms. A few have small bells attached to their arms. 
Others wear great ear-rings. Armlets of iron, brass, or 
copper may also be seen adorning these ascetics. Neck- 
laces of little stones glitter on the throats of a small number. 
Occasionally one may be met having his hair embelUshed 
with a metalhc substance called swarma maksh (golden 
fly). Again one has a conch shell tied on to his wrist, and 
another various quaint figures and devices, painted, or 
even branded, on his arms.^ 

" What very queer, eccentric, and barbarous attempts 
at beautification ! " says the European, with a contemptuous 
smile, as he takes stock of these strange-looking philosophers. 
Yet, quaint and simple as their adornments undoubtedly 
are, the sadhus have evident pride in them ; and with good 
reason too, for to them and to their fellows they are, like 
the palm-leaf in the hand of the Christian friar returned 
from Palestine, and like the different pewter medals with 

^ In the discussion which followed the reading of a paper by the Rev. 
Herbert Thurston, S. J., before the Society of Arts on " The History of 
the Rosary in all Countries," Sir George Bird wood said, " Nothing can be 
simpler than the art of the Hindu rosary, the Saiva rosary of 84 beads and 
the Vaishnava of 108 ; but when you learn that the sacred number 84 
{chaurasi) is made up of the number of the 12 signs of the zodiac, multipUed 
by the number of the 7 planets ; and that the sacred number 108 is simi- 
larly made up, the moon being counted as three — the rising, full, and waning 
moon — instead of one, then you understand that every Hindu rosary sym- 
bolises the whole circuit of the hosts of heaven ; and this knowledge 
henceforth transfigures them in your eyes. He was satisfied from the 
numbers of the beads strung on them, and their mode of division, in 12 
groups of 7, that the earhest Christian rosaries, Uke the Baudha and 
Islamitic rosaries, were originally derived from the rosaries of the Hindus." 
— Journal of the Society of Arts, 21st February 1902, p. 275. 

^ " It appears, however, that stamping the mark with a hot iron is 
commonly in use in the Dekhin. A similar practice seems to have been 
knowTi to the early Christians, and baptizing with fire was stamping the 
cross on the forehead with a hot iron." — Professor Wilson's ReligiotLS Sects 
of the Hindus, footnote, p. 28. 

40 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

wMch the mediaeval visitors to celebrated shrines adorned 
their hats and dresses,^ precious souvenirs and legible signs 
of holy pilgrimages accomplished by plain and mountain. 
Those rude armlets of iron, brass, and copper recall to 
mind and are well-known badges of visits to the lofty 
Himalayan monasteries of Pasupatinath, Kedarnath, and 
Badrinath. The necklace of little gleaming stones and 
the " golden flies " tell of far wanderings to the shrine of 
Kali at Hingalaj in distant Beluchistan ; the white conch 
shell on the wrist indicates a pilgrimage to Rameshwar in 
the far south ; and the symbolical marks branded con- 
spicuously upon the arm may be the evidence of the 
favour of Krishna obtained by a visit to Dwarka by the 
sea, where the incarnated god ruled in the olden days.^ 
Having renounced the world, the Hindu ascetics have 
reduced their belongings to a minimum ; yet being human, 
they have not been able to cast everything aside. As 
wandering mendicants depending for their daily food upon 
the charity of their fellow-countrymen, and often traversing 
long distances in the course of their annual tourings, most 
of them, though not all, have in practice recognised the 
necessity of possessing an alms -bowl and a water -pot. 
These consist of, perhaps, a mere cocoanut-shell or a 
calabash, but in many instances the shell, if examined, will 
be found provided with a lid, a handle, and a spout ; the 
gourd will also present evidences of improvement, being 
cut into a convenient shape for easy carriage, while brass 
imitations of the gourd will not be uncommon. Some taste, 
too, is often displayed in adorning these very homely 
vessels. 

Amongst many races iron is beheved to have the 
virtue of scaring away demons and evil spirits ; it is 
certainly both friend and foe to evil-doers. As a protection 
against more substantial enemies than wicked spirits — wild 
beasts, for example — the iron fire -tongs to be found in the 

^ Social England, edited by H. D. Traill and J. S. Mann, vol. ii. pp. 
374, 375. 

2 Marking or branding the body with the Vishnu symbols is known as 
bhajana. Amongst the early Christians, many branded the name of Christ 
upon their foreheads. 

41 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

possession of a majority of these ascetics ought to be 
effective, since in many cases they are so exaggerated in 
both size and weight as to become formidable weapons 
in strong hands,^ especially when they happen to have 
been sharpened along the edges. 

Amongst the sadhu^s impedimenta will be noticed tau- 
staves used as chin-rests and arm-rests, known as hairaguns,^ 
of different sorts, adapted to the various positions favoured 
by the contemplator when silently engaged in his profound 
and pious meditations. I understand that occasionally one 
of these bairaguns may conceal a sharp dagger. I have 
not myself come across any of this dangerous kind, but 
have no reason whatever to doubt their existence, especially 
when I call to mind that even the crucifix itself (the 
crucifix of Crema) has been sacrilegiously used as a re- 
ceptacle for a cruel and treacherous poniard.^ 

As narcotic drugs are in favour with Hindu ascetics, 
charas-smokers amongst them will naturally have their 
chillums (pipes) stowed away somewhere about their persons ; 
and confirmed bhang-drinkers will not find a stone mortar 
and wooden pestle too burdensome, even when wayfaring. 
It would be an interesting philosophical study to endeavour 
to trace the influence of these powerful narcotics on the 
minds and bodies of the itinerant monks who habitually 
use them. We may be sure that these hemp drugs, known 
since very early times in the East, are not irresponsible for 
some of its wild dreamings,* whilst there is good reason to 
believe that they have often given the user protection from 
malarial and other diseases. 

Diminutive idols in stone and metal or pictorial re- 
presentations of the deities will be found in the miniature 
chapels which some sadhus set up when they halt for a 
while at any convenient spot ; and, along with the idols 

* Vide initial letter, Chap. VII. Section II. 

2 An arm -rest is used as the initial letter of Chap. VIII. Section II. 
^ Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece, by John Addington Symonds, 
vol. i. pp. 219-21. 

* The Christian missionary sarcastically remarks, " A great number of 
Hindu modern saints live in a state of perpetual intoxication, and call this 
stupefaction, which arises from smoking intoxicating herbs, fixing the mind 
on God."— Ward's Hindus, p. 283. 

42 




•*«w 



A BAIKAGI AND HIS HEKMITAGE. 



Fig. 1. 



To face page 42. 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

and pictures, various objects specially associated with the 
divinities in the holy legends of Hinduism. Of course the 
gods and the sacred objects present will, in each case, 
depend upon the particular sadhu's sect, his beliefs and 
preferences. In this connection it may be mentioned that 
amongst Saivas the following are likely to be found : a 
lingam, a human skull, a tiger's skin, a trisula or trident, 
and a dameru or drum. Among Vaishnavas may be looked 
for the saligram stone (a kind of ammonite), the tulasi 
plant, the conch shell {sanJcha), and the discus (chakra), 
emblematic of the sun. 

Sadhus vary their extensive peregrinations by halts, 
often very long ones, especially when old age is creeping 
insidiously upon them and long journeys become fatiguing 
and distasteful. A hermitage of some sort by the river- 
side, or a cool place in the shade of a spreading peepul or 
banian tree near a temple, may be the sadhu's quiet home 
for months or even years. Here, on the selected spot, he 
maintains in the open air the wood fire, whose soft smoke, 
most useful in keeping off mosquitoes and other trouble- 
some insects, seems an indispensable accompaniment, as 
well as an outward and visible sign, of the sadhu's abode. 
Here he usually sets up a tiny altar to his favourite or 
tutelar deity, and is himself visited regularly by the religious 
who wish to earn merit by charity to holy men. Persons 
desirous of securing his good offices for the attainment of 
more definite worldly ends also find their way to his 
hermitage, and here he lives on the alms of the neighbour- 
hood till his own caprice, or inexorable death, puts a period 
to the sojourn. Whether resting or on the march, sadhus 
who are strict observers of the rules of the order or sect 
they belong to would have their time well occupied from 
sunrise to sunset in the performance of the many detailed 
ritualistic duties and exercises prescribed for them ; and as 
most of the present-day ascetics are ignorant men, rarely 
under the direct control of any superior, they usually 
neglect or curtail their ceremonial obligations, or, at any 
rate, discharge them quite perfunctorily. 

The illustrations (Figs. 1 and 2) will give a fair idea 
of the hermitages of Indian sadhus, which, picturesque 

43 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

though they may be, are certainly not comfortable, and 
could be habitable only in a warm climate. 

To account for his long rest at the foot of the peepul 
tree (Ficus religiosa) where he had established himself, the 
man depicted in Fig. 1, a sadhu of the Bairagi order, informed 
me that he had come there in obedience to a gracious 
summons from the goddess Devi, whose temple was alongside, 
and that he would move on when the divinity, of her good 
pleasure, should direct him in a vision, as before, to leave 
the place. Within his shed he had installed an image of 
Rama Chandra, before which he was enabled, through the 
kindness of friends and admirers, to heap up every day a 
small pile of rose petals. Outside, as the illustration 
shows, there lies a rather suspicious-looking bottle, while 
the hermit himself is seen busy grinding, in a stone mortar, 
some dried leaves of the hemp plant (cannabis Indica) 
preparatory to infusion in cold water, in order to enjoy his 
favourite appetiser and intoxicant bhang. 

Of the men in the group, Fig. 2, the one with averted 
face was not actuated by any feeling of modesty or 
self -depreciation from facing the camera. He joined the 
others casually while the instrument was being adjusted, 
and, when asked to assume a suitable attitude, pompously 
replied that he obeyed no man's behests, recognising no 
master save Rama Chandra. It required some little 
persuasion on the part of his brother sadhus to induce him 
even to take up the ungracious and ungraceful pose in 
which he was photographed. He might, perhaps, have 
been a shady character wanted by the police, and might 
have acted as he did for prudential reasons, or, which 
is quite as probable, his rudeness may have been due 
merely to an objection to be photographed, on the ground 
that any likeness taken carries away with it some virtue 
from the original — possibly a portion of the living soul — 
this being by no means an uncommon superstition. 

Lay Hindus are often subjected by the Brahmans 
to penances for offences such as the ill-treatment or 
killing of a cow, or for some other equally serious breach 
of the ethical or ceremonial law. And occasionally sadhus, 
for reasons of their own already indicated, voluntarily 

44 













m 

73 






SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

undergo inconveniences, pains, and even terrible tortures. 
In doing so they follow the traditional path, and do not 
exercise any special ingenuity in the invention of methods 
of self -torment. 

One favourite mode of mortifvinoj the flesh is to sit 
under the open canopy of heaven girt about with five small 
fires. ^ Sometimes only four fires are lighted, the sun 
overhead being regarded as the fifth one ; and an intoler- 
able fire he is, too, on a cloudless summer day in the plains 
of India. As a rule this arrangement is devoid of sincerity, 
and is indeed a mere performance or show. Yet the fires, 
insignificant though they be, serve the very practical 
object of advertising the sadhu and attracting admirers 
and clients. Sadhus who follow this practice are known as 
fanchadhunis. 

Another way of afflicting and subduing the body is 
to sit and sleep on a bed of spikes. I have even seen a 
sadhu's wooden shoes bristling inside with a close crop 
of pointed nails. That the discomfort in such cases due 
to the constant contact of acute spikes with some portion 
or other of the almost naked body is real, there can be 
little doubt, but it need not be very injurious to health. 
Referring, in connection with this practice, to Bhishma, 
one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, Mr. W. Crookes 
writes : "To the Hindu nowadays he is chiefly known 
by the tragic circumstances of his death. He was 
covered all over by the innumerable arrows discharged at 
him by Arjuna, and when he fell from his chariot he was 
upheld from the ground by the arrows and lay on a couch 
of darts. This sara-sayya or * arrow-bed ' of Bhishma 
is probably the origin of the kantaka-sayya or ' thorn- 
couch ' of some modern Bairagis, whg lie and sleep on a 
couch studded with nails." ^ To the discredit of human 
nature it must be admitted that deceptions and impostures 
even in asceticism are unfortunately inevitable. An 
Indian gentleman, not, however, too favourably disposed 
towards the ascetics, assured me that he once found out 
that a sadhu whose practice it was to sit in public on spikes 

^ For illustrations of this and other forms of asceticism vide Frontispiece. 
^ The Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, vol. i. p. 92. 

45 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

had cunningly taken the precaution to protect his buttocks 
with thin iron plates so artfully made with irregular surface 
as to deceive almost any onlooker into the behef that his 
flesh was being pitted by the cruel points. 

There are sadhus — tharasri they are called — who 
will stand leaning on some kind of rest for days or weeks 
together, with what painful fatigue and hardship it is easy 
to imagine. Occasionally in this form of self-torture only 
one leg is used, the other being drawn up. 

A prominent feature in the ascetic practices of some 
sadhus is hanging head downwards suspended from the 
bough of a tree or a suitable framework, for perhaps half 
an hour at a time. Such sadhus are known as urdhamukhiy 
Fig. 3, but must be exceedingly rare, as I have come across 
only a single example of this class, described later on in 
Chap. IX. 

Severer forms of voluntary torture are also known, as 
when a man ties his arm to a support such as a light bamboo, 
so as to keep it erect overheard, till, at last, the disused limb, 
reduced to a shrunken and rigid condition, refuses to be 
lowered again to its natural position. When both arms 
are so dealt with, the subject becomes a helpless cripple 
entirely dependent for everything upon the kindness of 
others. Sadhus who practise this form of austerity are 
known as urdhabahus. A modification of the last- 
mentioned practice is the closing of the hand till it 
becomes useless and the long nails grow like curving talons 
from the cramped and atrophied fingers, or even find their 
way through the flesh between the metacarpal bones of 
the hand. 

Burying alive, or performing samadh as it is called, 
is a very rare yet well-known practice amongst Hindu 
religious devotees. The period of inhumation may be from 
a few days to five or six weeks, and, if the buried man 
lives out the fixed time, he emerges from his temporary 
grave an undoubted saint and an object of popular venera- 
tion ever afterwards. The advantages in view are great 
enough to tempt the more ambitious sadhu ; but samadh 
is attended with the gravest risks, even when undertaken 
by cunning and designing impostors for their own 

46 




[A. J. Coml: ridge & Co., Bombay. 



AN rEDHA:MrKHI SADHU. 



To face page 4fi. 






1 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

glorification and profit. Two recent instances, both end- 
ing fatally, are described by Sir Monier Williams in his 
Modern India (pp. 50-53). 

A well-known and well -authenticated instance of a 
samadh lasting forty days and ending satisfactorily is the 
case of the yogi Haridas in the time of Ranjit Singh of the 
Punjab 1 (A.D. 1792-1839). 

Great hardship attends what is known as the ashtanga 
danddwat, or prostration of the body, involving the per- 
formance of a pilgrimage by a slow and most laborious 
mode of progression, — in fact, the application of eight parts 
of the body — the forehead, breast, hands, knees, and insteps 
— to the ground. The vower determines to traverse the 
distance to his destination, a shrine or some noted place of 
pilgrimage, by prostrating himself full length on the road, 
then crawling along till his heels touch the spot where his 
forehead last rested, then prostrating himself again, and so 
on, with repetitions on repetitions, till his goal is reached. 
The performance savours of great humility, and is not con- 
ll fined to short distances. I once met a youthful sadhu at 
Burdwan in Bengal, on the Grand Trunk Road of Northern 
India, moving in this leech-like fashion from Juggernaut 
to Benares, a distance of about six hundred miles, and I 
have heard of pilgrims thus measuring, as it were, their 
toilsome way towards the sacred source of the Ganges, 
amongst the eternal snows of the Himalayas, pursuing for 
months, and even years, with patient courage a journey 
almost impossible of accomplishment in such inhospitable 
regions under the imposed conditions. ^ 

There are others also who cHmb the mighty Himalayas, 
not to visit the source of the Ganges, but to reach the far- 
off heavens beyond. In the olden time, so the story goes, 
King Yadhisthera, weary of Ufe and its disappointments, 
journeyed towards Mount Meru, and, after many painful 
vicissitudes on the way, arrived at the celestial mountain, 

^ Described after Dr. Honigberger in my Indian Life, Religious and 
Social (T. Fisher Unwin), pp. 28-30. 

^ It is a curious fact that ashtanga is sometimes undertaken simply with 
the object of collecting money for a daughter's dowry. I came across an 
instance of this kind in December 1898. 

47 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and was finally admitted into swarga, the abode of bliss ; ^ 
and ever since then many a sadhu has resolutely directed 
his footsteps towards the same goal, has gone alone upon 
the same great journey across the rugged mountains, and 
has not turned hack. 

Fasting is too obvious a penance to have been over- 
looked by sadhus as a means of macerating the body ; and 
abstinence, combined with vigils and meditations, carried to 
excess, must in many cases have led amongst them to those 
hallucinations and ecstasies of an enfeebled constitution 
which are as familiar in the history of the saints of Christen- 
dom as in that of other Asiatic religions. 

Vows of silence are not uncommon, and, however trying 
in the observance, may be very convenient under easily con- 
ceivable circumstances. 

Once only I made the acquaintance of an ascetic who 
had afflicted himself by loading his person with massive 
iron chains, weighing in the aggregate about five hundred 
pounds, and he was a Muhammadan. On the opposite 
page is a photograph (Fig. 4) of this man, to whom I shall 
refer again in a later chapter. 

Sadhus sometimes mutilate themselves cruelly, as one 
did, to my knowledge, in an ungovernable fit of temper. 
His deserted wife had followed him to a great gathering 
of ascetics, and, in the hearing of many, entreated him to 
return home with her. A few of the ascetics within ear- 
shot made jeering observations in regard to the new sadhu 
and his predicament, which stung him into a fever of rage, 
to be cooled only by the sharp edge of a knife and a dangerous 
haemorrhage. I learned subsequently that the case was by 
no means an unusual one.^ 

^ The story is retold from the Mahabharata in my Great Indian Epics 
(1899), pp. 194, 195. 

^ Self-mutilation prompted by religious fanaticism is not even now a 
thing of the past in Christian Europe. As an example, I may cite the 
following instance recorded in the Daily Mail of 7th May 1901. 

FANATICAL SELF-MUTILATION 

(From our own Correspondent). 

St. Petersburg, Friday, "ird May. 
Ivan Plotnikoff, a peasant, twenty-eight years of age, residing at Bie- 
lovodsk, in the government of KharkoS, called at the public library there 

48 




A FAQFIK WEIGHTED WITH UEAA'Y CHAINS. 



To face 'page. 48^ 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

At certain periods of the year, particularly in the 
month of April, many men of the lower castes observe 
temporarily the discipline of the ascetic sects, and may 
then be seen to cheerfully undergo self-inflicted tortures 
of a cruel kind, as, for example, passing thick metal skewers 
through the tongue, the cheeks, or the skin of the arms, 
the neck, and the sides,^ walking upon live charcoal, and 
rolling upon thorns. Amongst the motives most commonly 
ascribed to these temporary low-caste ascetics are the 
gratification of vanity and the desire for the pecuniary gain 
which their performances usually bring them ; but there 
can be no doubt that many of them hope, and look for, 
other and less obvious rewards for their self-inflicted 
sufferings. 

Not to all men is it given to submit voluntarily to the 
more trying austerities, and therefore, as might have been 
expected, we find a number of minor asceticisms indulged 
in for the sake of attracting attention and perhaps gaining 
some pecuniary advantage. For example, a sadhu whom 1 
saw at a religious festival, a big and powerful fellow, had 
a strong wooden framework erected to support a huge 
earthenware jar provided with a perforation at the bottom, 
from which a stream of water could flow out. Round about 
there were at least twenty-five large pots of water, to re- 
plenish the great jar when in use. Under the jar the 

and asked for a book which would teach him " to live in truth," as he 
expressed himself. He was given the Holy Gospel. A few days afterwards 
a rumour spread about the place that PlotnikoS had cut off his hand. 

When Plotnikoff had read in the Gospel that popular text, " And if thy 
right eye offend thee, pluck it out " (Matt. v. 29), he took it in a Uteral 
sense, and, being in a state of exaltation, decided then and there to proceed 
with the operation of removing his own eye. Not finding, however, an awl 
with which he could do it, he got hold of an axe, and with remarkable 
coolness began to chop the wrist of his hand, which he out off after the 
fourth blow. 

Plotnikoff is now lying in the Starobielsky Hospital, whither he went 
on foot. It is amazing that he could manage to walk a distance of about 
fifteen or twenty miles after having lost so much blood. 

^ These piercings, although very real, and seemingly cruel, do not, I 
must admit, appear to be attended with serious inconvenience. I have 
always seen them carried out by a master upon his chelas or disciples, and 
on every occasion the impression I received at the time was that the chelas 
were under hypnotic influence — an idea strengthened by my knowledge 
of the fact that practical hypnotism is not a new thing in India. 

D 49 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sadhu was in the habit of sitting during the night, par- 
ticularly in the small hours, from about three o'clock till 
daybreak, with a stream of water falhng on his head and 
flowing down over his person to the ground. It was winter 
time, and very cold work no doubt, but the sadhu had his 
reward in gratified vanity ; for in the eyes of his numerous 
admirers he was Siva himself with the Ganges falling from 
heaven upon his head and flowing thence to bless and 
fertilise the earth.^ This man, on account of his peculiar 
ascetic practice, would be known as a jaladhara tapaski. 
Sadhus who sit all night immersed in water are called 
jalashayi, but, as my night wanderings have not been very 
extensive, I have not seen any of these pecuhar nocturnal 
soakers. 

I once came across a sadhu, or pseudo - sac^Aw, who 
would put pieces of Uve charcoal into his mouth and chew 
them, pretending that they were savoury morsels and his 
usual food. He was an agriculturist and an ignorant fellow, 
whose only claim to notice was this stupid practice. 
There are some ascetics who pretend to live only on wheat 
bran, others who give out that the water they drink is 
invariably mixed with wood ashes. Some of these cases 
are merely instances of depraved appetite of a kind not un- 
known in the West. Some sadhus there are (known as 
jarari) who eat fruits and nothing else, others (dudhahari) 
who subsist on milk alone, while those known as aluna 
never eat salt with their food. 

Amongst the devices for attracting attention which 
take the form of self-inflicted penances, all are not so 
innocuous or unobjectionable as the ones just referred to. 
For example, lusty fellows often go about affecting to 
keep a restraint upon their sexual desires by mechanical 
arrangements which they do not conceal. A sect given 
to this practice is noticed by Professor H. H. Wilson under 
the name of kara lingis} On the other hand, certain 
sadhus (Bairagis) are credited with effectually keeping their 
desires under control by subjecting themselves to a cruel 

^ The story of the descent of the Ganges, reproduced from the Ramayana, 
is given in my Great Indian Epics (1899), pp. 87-90. 
- Beligious Sects of the Hindus, p. 151. 

50 




■A 






:5 






•n 

O 

> 






o 



05 



e 



"5 

M 



I 



SADHUS BEFORE THE PUBLIC AT FAIRS 

discipline entirely destructive of particular nerves and 
muscles of tlie body.^ 

As aids to meditation, possibly also in some cases as 
means for the mortification of tbe flesh, a great number of 
dsans, or postures, with such fantastic names as, for in- 
stance, the padma dsan or lotus posture, have been de vised. ^ 
Some of them are really very difficult contortions, only to 
be acquired by a long and painful apprenticeship to the 
art, as will be readily understood from a consideration of 
the attitudes of the sadhus in Fig. 5. 

This chapter cannot be closed without a reference to 
certain purificatory rites, which are practised by some 
sadhus : for example— 

1. Drawing a thread through the mouth and one of 
the nostrils, with the object of cleansing the nasal fossae : 
this process is called neti harm. 

2. Swallowing a long strip of cloth, and after it has 
reached the stomach drawing it out again : this process of 
cleaning out the stomach is dhoti karm. 

3. Cleaning the throat with a long brush called Brahma 
dot an. 

Two purificatory processes known as hrajoli harm and 
ganesh hriya are, to say the least, so peculiar that I will 
not particularise them beyond stating that the latter is a 
process of flushing the colon without instrumental aids. 
I only allude to these practices, in order to lay stress on 
the fact that the cleansing of all the reachable interior 
portions of the body seems to have been nothing short of 
a mania with some sectarians in India. 

1 Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, by the Abbe J. N. Dubois, 
part ii. chap, xxxiii, 

- There are dsans and dsans known to the Indian people, and they are 
not all connected with sadhuism nor with religious practices ; many of 
them quite the reverse. A book descriptive bf these latter exists, but it 
is, I believe, on the Index lihrorum prohibitorum of the Indian police. 



51 



CHAPTEK IV 

THE WONDERS THAT PRESENT-DAY SADHUS AND 
FAQUIRS ARE SAID TO PERFORM 



Visionists like the Sanyasi Ramakrishna — Sadhua to some extent what the 
Magicians and Necromancers have elsewhere been — Tales and Anec- 
dotes of the Wonders performed by Sadhus and of Calamities brought 
on or averted by them — Transmutation of Metals by Sadhus — Story 
of Muslim Thaumaturgist who was the Disciple of a Sadhu — Claims of 
Superiority over Sadhus made by Faquirs — Strange Treatment of a 
Faquir by a co-Religionist — Sadhus as Physicians, Palmists, Fortune- 
tellers, and Acrobats. 



M N G S T the 
Indian ascetics 
of our day there 
are some — like 
the highly 
emotional and 
tearful Bengali 
Sanyasi Rama- 
krishna,^ subject 
to hysteria, 
trances, and 
catalepsy — who 
see visions, are 
believed to have 
been favoured 
with personal 
visits from the 
very gods and 
goddesses them- 
selves, and are 
reputed to be 



•I..,.. 










^ Of this sadhu, who died in 1886, a good deal has recently been heard 
both in Europe and America. Ramakrishna : His Life and Sayings, by 
Professor Max Miiller. - 

52 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

able to work miracles, though indisposed to do so, thinking 
that such performances are hindrances in the way to per- 
fection. But apart from such neurotic saints, who always 
excite attention and sometimes found new sects, every 
Hindu knows that, though not nearly so powerful as the 
ancient rishis, whose fame has grown with the centuries, 
many sadhus do, even in our degenerate days, work wonders, 
and these not always of a beneficent kind. What the 
magician is, or has been, in other countries, that, to some 
extent, is the sadhu in India. Elsewhere the necromancer 
and the witch have been in antagonism with, and under 
the ban of, the hierarchy, but in India the ecclesiastical 
mantle has proved elastic enough to cover even some sor- 
cerers, though certainly not all. 

The Christian Church has always admitted, on biblical 
authority, the existence of wizards and witches. It has 
abhorred their dread power, and, when the vengeance of 
Heaven did not directly overtake them for their deeds, ^ 
persecuted them to the death, in obedience to the divine 
command, " Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live " (Ex. 
xxii. 18 ; Lev. xx. 27). 

Mediaeval history is painfully blurred with the smoke 
of the penal fires which attest the zeal of the Church in 
the suppression of witchcraft, whose successes were 
attributed to diabolical agency ; but in India, since the 
earliest times, magic and sorcery, however much dreaded, 
have not been without a certain acknowledged respecta- 
bility. 

Of course there has been in India the inevitable rivalry 
between the hereditary priesthood and the lay professors 
of witchcraft, but the Brahmans, with their wonderful 
faculty of adaptation to circumstances, themselves adopted, 
at a very early date, the role of sorcerers (as the Atharva 
Veda amply proves), and by so doing have inevitably, though 

^ The wicked, if we may believe the chroniclers, were sometimes visited 
with the vengeance of God in a startling manner. For example : " i\Iatilda 
was a great and potent witch, whose summons the devil was bound to obey. 
One day she aspired, alone of all her sex, to say mass ; but when the 
moment came for sacring the elements, a thunderbolt fell from the clear 
sky and reduced her to ashes." — Sketches and Stvdies in Italy and Greece, 
by J. A. Symonds, ii. 179. 

53 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

unintentionally, dignified the calling of the lay magician ; 
since spells for the attainment of much which is elsewhere 
stigmatised as base, immoral, and impious have not been 
excluded from the sacred canon of the Hindus. 

" Even witchcraft," says Mr. Bloomfield, " is part of the 
Hindu's religion ; it has penetrated and become intimately 
blended with the hohest Vedic rites ; the broad current 
of popular religion and superstition has infiltrated itself 
through numberless channels into the higher religion that 
is presented by the Brahman priests, and it may be pre- 
sumed that the priests were neither able to cleanse their 
own religious beliefs from the mass of folk-belief with which 
it was surrounded, nor is it at all likely that they found 
it in their interest to do so." ^ 

What the sadhu is credited with doing or being able 
to do, what the people think of him as a wonder-worker 
and a person capable of signally and very unpleasantly 
resenting any disrespect from worldlings, will be apparent 
from the following characteristic little stories picked up in 
my wanderings in India. 

In the Deccan a certain sardar, or chief, who openly 
expressed disbelief in the existence of hhuts (goblins) was 
assured by a sadhu that they really did exist. The sardar 
wanted some tangible evidence in proof of this assertion, so 
the sadhu offered to give the sceptic ocular demonstration 
of the truth of his statement, on condition of his receiv- 
ing one hundred rupees for his trouble. The offer was 
accepted. A lonely spot in the jungle was selected for the 
exhibition. Here, at midnight, the sardar and two or 
three of his friends, together with the sadhu, assembled 
within a space ringed in with a conspicuous line traced on 
the ground. Outside this boundary or magic circle no one 
was to move on pain of death or the most serious trouble. 
When all were seated and were peering anxiously into the 
darkness which surrounded them, the sadhu kept repeating 
his muntras (spells), till, lo ! in the mirk, at the distance 
of a musket-shot, there appeared a lot of fantastic bald- 
headed urchins, jumping about with lighted pieces of wood 

^ Introduction (pp. xlv, xlvi.) to Bloorafield's translation of the Atharva 
Veda. — Sacred Books of tlie East, vol. xlii. 

54 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

in their hands. In a little while, however, the capering 
hhuts all disappeared. Even after this demonstration the 
sardar was sceptical, and challenged the sadhu to reproduce 
his uncanny sprites again. The wise man excused himself ; 
but, in consideration of the present of a valuable gold kurra 
(bracelet), repeated the performance the following night. 
On this second occasion the imps of darkness who appeared 
were giil-bhuts, and instead of lighted sticks carried hghted 
charaghs (terra-cotta lamps) in their hands. These they 
waved about in the darkness, but no inducements could 
make them approach the spectators within the enchanted 
enclosure nearer than the distance of a musket -shot. 
Needless to add that, as my informant, a learned pundit, 
assured me, the sardar's scepticism on the important subject 
of the existence of goblins was entirely dispelled by this 
second demonstration. 

The following extract from an Anglo-Indian newspaper 
will serve as another example of what is currently reported 
about sadhus in our time. 



(( 



Extraordinary Tale of a Jogi. 



" The orthodox Hindus of Trevandrum, a correspondent 
writes to a Southern contemporary, have lately been much 
excited about a jogi or sanyasi who for some time past has 
been literally worshipped and reverenced as a god come 
down to men. No one appears to know where this man came 
from, or to what particular race or caste he belongs ; but he 
was supposed to be a Hindu. On his arrival he sat under 
a banyan tree, on the northern bank of the Padmatheertham 
tank, and there he remained for three years. For the first 
week or so after he had taken up his arboreal residence, he 
partook of some milk or a plantain, or two twice or three 
times a week. Then he gradually extended the intervals, 
till after three or four months he took no food at all, spoke 
to no one, and passed his time huddled up before a fire 
night and day for three long years. He looked no one in 
the face ; he heeded no sounds, no question, nothing. The 
Maharajah of Travancore on one occasion stopped near the 
sanyasi and addressed him, without, however, obtaining the 

55 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

slightest recognition. Exposed to tlie cold and wet, to the 
heat and dust, the sanyasi, without partaking a morsel of 
food, passed his three years' existence in divine contempla- 
tion, and, although every morning and evening numbers of 
people paid him homage, he appeared oblivious of all external 
circumstances. A few days ago he died." — Civil and Military 
Gazette, Lahore, 23rd April 1895. 

Calamities are often due to sadhus. For example, 
a serious and extensive fire broke out one night in June 
1899 in a bazaar at Amritsar, causing great loss of 
property and of a few lives too. It appears a sadhu 
had been asking for alms from one shop to another in this 
bazaar. The khatri merchants, puffed up with the pride 
of wealth, repelled him with sharp words, one of them 
saying to him, " You are dressed grandly enough ! why 
do you pester me for fice ? " 

Now the sadhu was robed in a new sheet which some 
liberal person, most likely a woman, had kindly presented 
to him. Irritated by the mahajurCs (merchant's) taunts, 
he removed the cloth from his shoulders, and, having 
procured a bit of fire, deliberately burnt the offending 
sheet to ashes in the open street, and then went his way. 
Hardly had the mendicant sadhu disappeared from the 
scene of liis operations when flames broke out in the shop 
of the merchant who had affronted him. Realising at 
once that the calamity was the result of the sadhu' s 
displeasure, the khatri merchant hurriedly despatched 
messengers in all directions to find the offended man, 
in order that he might propitiate him if possible ; but the 
saint was not to be discovered anywhere, so the shop 
of the niggardly hunneeah and those of his immediate 
neighbours were all burnt down to the ground. 

The person who kindly put me in possession of these 
interesting facts narrated to me also another story of a 
past generation, one likewise connected with Amritsar and 
well known to his own father, who, at the time to which 
it relates, was himself a dweller in that city. 

A sadhu, as is not unusual with these gentlemen, 
entreated a pansdri (druggist or herbalist) to give him the 

56 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

wherewithal to have a good smoke of liis favourite charas. 
" I am on fire," pleaded the sadhu, " do give me a little 
charas to cool my tortured body." " Go and burn," was 
the shopkeeper's churlish reply. " No," responded the 
enraged sadhu, " let the fire seize you ! " and he left the 
spot in anger. Within a minute of his departure the 
druggist found his store on fire, and, realising that this 
calamity was due to the holy sadhu^s curse, made no vain 
attempt to combat the flames, but ran hurriedly after the 
saint in order to appease his wrath. He found the object 
of his search in a crowded thoroughfare, and, falling prone 
at his feet, entreated liim to extinguish the flames he had 
caused. Promising never to refuse a sadku's request 
again, the distressed pansdri humbly begged the offended 
mendicant's pardon, adding, " Come, maharaj, let me give 
you the charas now." Mollified by the attentions of the 
druggist, the sadhu said to him, " Your shop will be 
burnt down — that is inevitable now ; but as you have 
humbled yourself before me, and are sorry for your unkind 
treatment of a poor sadhu, you may go your way with the 
comforting assurance that the fire will redound to your 
advantage." Reheved of all anxiety by those gracious 
words, in which he placed the most implicit confidence, 
the druggist went back to his store and watched with a 
contented heart the fire doing its work of destruction — 
though, as the shop with its contents disappeared in the 
flames, he was sorely puzzled to imagine where his 
promised luck was to come from. However, the mystery 
was soon cleared up. On inspecting what fit tie remained 
of the gutted premises, a mass of hot and almost molten 
silver was discovered, to the great joy of the pansdri. How 
it came there was not difficult of explanation. It seems 
the druggist had a considerable quantity of solder in his 
store. This, during the intense heat of the conflagra- 
tion, had been acted upon by some drug or combination 
of drugs also present there, with the happy result that the 
cheap solder had been transmuted into fine silver. 

Not only trifling and temporary but even widespread 
and permanent troubles may be caused by the curse of 
an oSended sadhu. To believers in these things it is a 

57 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

matter of common knowledge that the scanty water-supply 
in one of the cities of Upper India — Umballah, if I 
remember rightly — is the result of the curse of a 
wandering faquir. He had gone from house to house 
asking for a drop of water. No one had attended to his 
modest request. One, indeed, had said, by way of excuse, 
" I have only a little water for my own use." The 
faquir, knowing the statement to be quite untrue, became 
incensed and immediately uttered this malediction, " Little 
water shall you henceforth have in the wells of your city ! " 
and the curse was duly fulfilled. 

How very advantageous such stories must be to the 
wandering sadhus in their peregrinations, does not need to 
be pointed out. 

Beneficent actions are also, though rarely, connected 
with sadhus. One case came under my own observation. 

When in 1898 the bubonic plague made its appear- 
ance in the Jullundar district of the Punjab, and the 
precautionary measures of the sanitary authorities, much 
more than the fell disease itself, created a great excitement 
and anxiety amongst the people, a sadhu of the sect of 
the yogis came to Amritsar and established himself near 
a great tank outside the city. He let it be known, 
through his followers, that the object of his visit was to 
avert the dreaded pestilence, and to this end he called 
upon the religious and charitable to afford him the means 
of carrying out that most meritorious of actions, feasting 
the poor. An account of my visit to this worthy yogi 
will be found in a later chapter, but I may mention here 
that, so far as I know, the plague did not appear in 
Amritsar that year, though one doubtful and subsequently 
discredited case was reported to the officials. 

The transmutation of metals, alluded to in the story 
about the herbalist on a previous page, is one of those 
mysterious subjects which still fascinate the Oriental 
mind. A learned Hindu related to me, in all good faith, 
the following experiences of one of his intimate friends and 
a sa<?/m- alchemist. 

This friend, when a young man, was most anxious to 
become a sadhu, and attached himself to a Bairagi who 

58 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

had come from the solitudes of the Himalayas beyond 
Hurdwar and Rikhikesh. The sadhu seemed a very 
holy man, and the youth waited assiduously upon him. 
At last the sadhu noticed him so far as to hand him a piece 
of silver, giving him at the same time instructions to sell 
the bullion and buy what was necessary for their food. 
From time to time he intrusted the boy with bits of uncoined 
silver in this way, only requiring him to bring back, with the 
purchased food -stuffs, some copper coins. The regular 
supply of silver never failed, and at last the boy's curiosity 
was aroused to such a degree that he ventured to ask the 
guru where the treasure came from. The sadhu thus 
questioned smiled and said, " There is only one man in 
Hindustan who is my superior. I am a Rajah, but he, 
indeed, is a Maharajah. I can manufacture silver out of 
copper ; but he can convert silver into gold." 

The boy was all eagerness to learn this valuable art, 
with its glittering possibilities of future pleasures, but his 
ardour was rebuked by the guru, who told him he was not 
yet morally fit to be admitted to so great a secret — one 
indeed so fraught with mischief if intrusted to an unworthy 
man, that it had better be lost entirely than revealed to 
such a one. 

The youth's humble and assiduous attentions to the 
sadhu did not flag, but never having been allowed to sleep 
in or near the master's abode, probably because it was in 
the hours of darkness that the transmutations were effected, 
he had to shift for himself in the town ; and one unfortu- 
nate night, tempted by the meretricious charms of a loose 
woman, he committed a very grave indiscretion. When 
he presented himself next morning before the sadhu, he 
was promptly and peremptorily ordered to go away. It was 
useless to attempt any concealment from the omniscient 
sadhu, so the youth begged earnestly for forgiveness ; but 
the sadhu spurned his unworthy disciple, and with his 
own hand set fire to the little hut which had afforded him 
temporary shelter and contained all his worldly possessions. 
Carrying his huge chimfta (tongs) in his hand, which had 
been sharpened along the edges so that it might make a 
very formidable weapon, the alchemist strode away towards 

59 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the abode of the eternal snows. The cliela ventured to 
follow him for a while, but the Bairagi, looking back, 
threatened him with his keen-edged tongs, and the fallen 
youth thought it prudent to retrace his steps, haunted 
more than ever with an unsatisfied craving to know the 
great secret of making silver out of baser metal. 

A granthi ^ told me of an equally unfruitful experience >. 
he had with a gold-making Nirmali sadhu. This man made 
friends with the granthi, and insinuated himself into 
his confidence. He first cautiously hinted, and afterwards 
revealed, under the seal of secrecy, that he was acquainted 
with the occult art of transmuting metals. The granthi, 
notwithstanding his scriptural knowledge and semi-sacerdotal 
functions, was much excited at finding that his new friend 
was a potent alchemist, and he felt the bonds between 
them strengthen ; for, after all, this sort of man is not to 
be picked up in a day's journey. The transmuter of metals 
seemed to live very well, yet occasionally borrowed money, 
showing special favour to the granthi in this matter ; for 
he had no hesitation in placing himself under temporary 
obligations to his most confidential friend. And, of course, 
it was all right ; he was a gold-maker, and, when his 
arrangements were matured, would resume his profitable 
business, and, better still, teach the granthi the secrets of 
his mysterious art. One day the sadhu showed the granthi 
a common bronze double pice, or half-anna coin, and then 
in his presence put it into a small furnace along with 
various leaves and roots he had collected. After an hour 
or so he produced from his crucible a golden fac-simile of 
the double pice. The granthi, not to be taken in even by 
his dear friend, asked to be allowed to have it tested by a 
goldsmith. Permission was given and acted upon, with the 
result that the experts in the bazaar pronounced it gold of 
the purest quality. The granthi was now agog to learn 
the important secret of gold-making, and many were the 
rupees he willingly lent the sadhu, in the hope that he 
would accept him as a pupil. But the saintly man of 
science suddenly and unexpectedly decamped. 

" Alas ! " said the granthi after he had narrated these 
^ One learned in the Scriptures of the Sikh sect. 

60 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

circumstances to me, "I lost more than sixty rupees through 
that impostor. I have since learnt how he fooled me, but 
never a Nirmali sadhu has, since those days, had so much 
as a drop of water from my hand ! " 

Some thirty years ago, or thereabouts, Calcutta knew 
and took much interest in one Hassan Khan, who had the 
reputation of being a great wonder-worker, though I believe 
only in one particular hne, and his story may be fitly 
recorded here, as it was through the favour and initiation 
of a Hindu sadhu that this Muhammadan acquired the 
pecuhar and very remarkable powers attributed to him. 

Several European friends of mine had been personally 
acquainted with Hassan Khan, and witnessed his perform- 
ances in their own homes. It is directly from these gentle- 
men, and not from Indian sources, that I derived the details 
which I now reproduce. 

Hassan Khan was not a professional wizard, nor even 
a performer, but he could be persuaded on occasion to 
display to a small circle his peculiar powers, and this with- 
out any pecuniary reward. For example, he would call 
upon any person present at such a meeting to ask for some 
ordinary wine, and on the particular one being named 
would request him to put his hand under the table, or 
maybe behind a door, and, lo ! a bottle of the wished-for 
wine, with the label of some well-known Calcutta firm, 
would be thrust into the extended hand. 

Similarly he would produce articles of food, such as 
biscuits or cakes, and cigars too, enough for the assembled 
company. On a certain occasion, so I was informed by 
one who was present, the supply of comestibles seemed to 
be exhausted. Several members seated round the table 
raised a laugh against Hassan Khan, and jeeringly challenged 
him to produce a bottle of champagne. Much agitated 
and stammering badly — he always had an impediment in 
his speech — Hassan Khan went into the verandah, and in 
angry tones commanded some unseen agent to bring the 
champagne at once. He had to repeat his orders two or 
three times, when, hurtling through the air, came the re- 
quired bottle. It struck the magician on the chest with 
force, and, falling to the floor, broke into a thousand pieces. 

6i 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

" There," said Hassan Khan, much excited, " I have 
shown my power, but I have enraged my djinn by my 
importunities." 

A European friend of mine happened to travel, quite 
casually, in a railway carriage with Hassan Khan, and, 
having some acquaintance with him, asked him to produce 
something to drink. 

" Put your hand out of the window," said the Muslim, 
while the train was travelling along. 

His request was complied with, and a bottle of excellent 
wine thrust into the outstretched hand rewarded this slight 
exertion. 

Another of my friends, exceedingly anxious to learn 
the modus operandi of these strange performances, took a 
special interest in Hassan Khan, and with this important 
object in view cultivated his society. Driving on one 
occasion along with him in the bazaar, the wizard expressed 
a wish to alight at the shop of a money-changer. The 
carriage was stopped, and Hassan Khan, attended by his 
companion, asked the money-changer if he had any sover- 
eigns. An affirmative answer being given, he requested 
that they should be produced, and, when they were brought 
out of the money-changer's strong box, Hassan Khan, after 
asking the price at which they might be purchased (for in 
those days their value had not been fixed by law), thought- 
fully passed the gold coins through his fingers, saying he 
would call for them on the morrow, if he could not make 
a better bargain elsewhere. The following morning he 
went to the shop, attended as before by my friend — but 
only to learn that the sovereigns which he had seen and 
handled the day before had all mysteriously disappeared 
after being placed in the strong box. Hassan Khan 
affected to disbelieve the story, but, as he did so, slyly cast 
so significant a glance at his companion, that the latter 
prudently resolved never to be seen in such suspicious 
company again. 

Yet this incident only put a keener edge upon Mr. 's 

curiosity, and he assiduously plied Hassan Khan with 
questions till he obtained from him the following story, 
for the sake of which, more than anything else, I have set 

62 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

forth in tliis narrative particulars which, if correctly re- 
ported, are seemingly quite incredible, and possibly not 
explicable by even the cleverest legerdemainists. How- 
ever, not having witnessed the Muslim's strange perform- 
ances myself, and not being a wizard, I leave the matter 
without further comment, to pass on to the story of how 
Hassan Khan acquired the wondrous powers with which 
he was credited. 

" When I was a mere lad," said this remarkable man, 
" there came one day to my native village a gaunt sadhu 
with matted locks and altogether repulsive aspect. The 
boys crowded round him and mocked him, but I re- 
proved their rudeness, telhng them that they should 
respect a holy man, even though a Hindu. The sadhu 
observed me closely, and later on we met frequently, for 
he took up his abode in the village for some little time. 
On my part I seemed to be drawn towards the strange 
man, and visited him as often as I could. One day he 
offered to confer on me an important secret power, if 
I would follow his instructions faithfully and implicitly. 
I promised to do whatever might be required of me, and 
under the sadhiCs directions commenced a system of 
discipline with fasting which lasted many, perhaps forty, 
days. My instructor taught me to repeat many mystic 
spells and incantations, and, after imposing a very strict 
fast, commanded me to enter a dark cavern in the hillside 
and tell him what I saw there. With much trepidation 
I obeyed his behests, and returned with the information 
that the only thing visible to me in the gloom was a 
huge flaming eye. ' That is well — success has been 
achieved,' was the sadhu's remark, and I began wondering 
what power I had acquired. Pointing to some stones 
lying about, the sadhu made me make a particular 
mystical sign upon each one. I did so. ' Now go home,' 
said my mentor, ' shut the door of your room, and 
command your familiar to bring these stones to you.' 
Away I went, in a state of nervous excitement, and, 
locking myself in my chamber, commanded the unseen 
djinn to bring those stones to me at once. Hardly had 
my mandate been uttered, when, to my amazement and 

63 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

secret terror, the stones lay at my feet. I went back 
and told the sadhu of my success. ' Now,' he said, ' you 
have a power which you can exercise over everything 
upon which you can make the mystical sign I have taught 
you, but use your power with discretion, for my giic is 
quaHfied by the fact that, do what you will, the things, 
whatever they may be, acquired through your familiar 
spirit, cannot be accumulated by you, but must soon pass 
out of your hands.' And the sadhu's words have been veri- 
fied in my life, and his gift has not been an unmixed blessing, 
for my djinn resents my power, and has often tried to harm 
me ; but happily his time is not yet come." 

This explanation brings out very clearly the high 
esteem in which the occult powers of the sadhus are 
still held even by Muslims, since a follower of Islam 
could be found to acknowledge, voluntarily, that his own 
remarkable thaumaturgic abilities were conferred upon him 
by a Hindu religious mendicant. 

But the Indian Muhammadan, as becomes a member 
of a once dominant race, usually loves to claim superiority 
even on this ground. 

A Mussulman, speaking to me on the subject, admitted 
that the Hindu sadhus, by their austerities and pecuhar 
practices, acquire a strange mastery over the forces of 
nature. " But," said he, " they are never able to enter 
the Divine Presence, unless by the favour of a faquir. '^^ 
Persons well acquainted with such matters had told him that 
on one occasion a sadhu flying through the air recognised, 
by the aroma which filled the atmosphere, the proximity 
of some great faquir. He stayed his flight, alighted on 
the ground, but was unable to approach the MusHm saint, 
about whom was diffused, although invisible, the glory 
of the Almighty. The sadhu sent word to the faquir that 
he would Uke to meet him, but that he could not pass 
beyond the threshold of the haithak, or saloon where visitors 
were received, for he perceived that God Himself was 
there. 

" Come ! " said the faquir confidently, and under his 
protection the sadhu was able to approach. When the 
two ascetics met, the Muslim recognised in his visitor a 

64 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

worthy kindred spirit, and imparted to him freely the / 
grace of God which he (the sadhu) had not been able to 
acquire by all his penances and ceremonies. 

There is a widespread behef that when the faquir is 
mast (mad, or in an ecstatic condition) he is under the 
influence of the Divine Spirit, and that what he then 
gives utterance to is of the greatest significance. Very 
strange, indeed, are some of the practices of which this 
belief has been the parent. When, as is usual, the mast 
faquir is reticent and will not speak the word that is 
wanted of him, one inquirer will strive to gain his favour 
by patient service and constant attendance, while another, 
more impulsive and imperious, mil try to bully the good 
man to answer his questions. It came to my knowledge 
that a native police constable went to a well-known 
faquir to browbeat him into promising something which 
he wanted ; but the faquir would not be hectored, so the 
enraged constable, accustomed to take the law into his 
own hands, struck the holy man a blow with a stout 
stick. The faquir, thus assaulted, only said, " You are 
a zalim ! " (a tyrant, an oppressor), and not another word. 
On the next day the constable, to his great joy, was 
promoted to the grade of Deputy Inspector of Police. 
He came without delay to pay his respects to the faquir, 
and, on reaching the saint, fell at his feet and placed his 
turban on the ground — a mark of the greatest deference 
and humility. 

" What have you come for ? " asked the faquir. 

" To thank you, sir, for what you have done for me. 
By your favour I have been appointed Deputy Inspector 
of Police." 

" Oh," said the laughing faquir, not without a suspicion 
of irony, " I see ! I called you a zalim, and you have got 
that position conferred on you oflQ.cially." 

" Even so," responded the happy officer. 

This story and the one preceding it, far-fetched and 
trivial though they be, throw a sidelight on the ideas of 
Indian Muslims, and may therefore have some interest 
for students of Indian Hfe. 

Between the marvels wrought by the ancient Hindu 
E 65 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sages, as recorded in the old books, and those attributed 
to their modern representatives, there is, as the reader will 
doubtless have noticed, an immeasurable difierenoe, with a 
sad falling off. But, as in mediaeval Europe, the air in 
India is full of marvels and mysteries, and, if we may believe 
Hindu apologists, there still live, even in this sinful age, 
very potent wonder-working sadhus, only they are not to 
be met with in bazaars and the ordinary haunts of men, 
but where Madame Blavatsky discovered her elusive Koot 
Hoomi and other mahatmas} in the lone solitudes of 
mysterious Tibet, or the grim snow-fastnesses of the 
unexplored Himalayas. However, since exhibitions of 
miraculous powers are necessarily of rare occurrence in 
these degenerate times, the abilities of many sadhus are 
displayed in less striking ways : for example, as physi- 
cians administering, to the sick, drugs and simples of which 
they have acquired a knowledge in their wanderings, or 
had solemnly communicated to them by perhaps a dying 
guru. Many remarkable cures are justly attributed to 
sadhus, but they make a mystery of their knowledge, 
and jealously guard their therapeutic secrets from the 
common herd. Sometimes their practice is connected 
with ailments and weaknesses which call for the exhi- 
bition of love-philtres and a resort to spells calculated 
to influence a cold, impassive heart. In such cases, no 
doubt, the sadhu's skill can easily command a considerable 
pecuniary reward. 

Many religious mendicants earn a meal or a penny by 
disclosing, as fortune-tellers, palmists, and interpreters of 
dreams, the hidden things of the future. Others astonish 
the world by acrobatic feats — as the following extract from 
the Allahabad Pioneer will show : — 

" A wonderful faquir was in view in the main street, 
who all the time he says his prayers goes through acrobatic 
performances that would earn him a fortune in England. 

^ " Mahatman means literally great-souled, then high-minded, noble, 
and all the rest. It is often used simply as a compUmentary term, much 
as we use reverend or honourable, but it has also been accepted as a 
technical term, applied to a class of men who in the ancient language of 
India are well known to us by their name of Samnydsin." — Professor Max 
Muller, Life and Sayings of Ramakrishna, pp. 2, 3. 

66 



WONDERS SADHUS AND FAQUIRS PERFORM 

As we approaclied lie was standing on one leg with tlie 
other curled round his waist ; in another second he was on 
his hands, head downwards, and his legs round his neck ; 
when we left him he was tied up in something resembling 
a reef knot and clove hitch combined." ^ 
p) One of these religious posturists, named Bava Lachman 
Das, was induced a few years ago to come across the ocean 
to exhibit himself at the Westminster Aquarium to admir- 
ing thousands. The man and the very strange attitudes 
he could assume form the subject of a well-illustrated article 
in the Strand Magazine for February 1897. 

1 From " A March through the Cow-rioting Districts," Pioneer (Alla- 
habad), 7th February 1894. 



67 



CHAPTER V 



SOME GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 



Eight Stories from famous Sanskrit Dramas and other Sources : ( 1 ) Sa- 
koontala ; (2) Malati and Madhava ; (3) Disillusionment ; (4) The 
homed Rishi ; (5) The Lost Son restored ; (6) A Kind-hearted Lady ; 
(7) The Father duped ; (8) Woman's Cunning. 



in Indian life, so in Indian 
fiction, sadhus and faquirs are 
familiar forms. It has al- 
ready been shown (Chap. 
II.) how largely sadhus 
bulk in the sacred litera- 
ture of the Hindus, — 
epics, Puranas, etc., — 
but I shall now draw 
upon secular, or I 
should perhaps say 
less sacred, sources for 
pictures of the saints 
of the Indian world. The following eight stories, in which 
sadhus and -pseudo - sadhus figure prominently, will serve 
my purpose, while at the same time affording some inter- 
esting glimpses of the inner world of Hindu ideas and senti- 
ments. 

The celebrated story entitled Sakoontala, or the Lost 
Ring, may come first on account of its intrinsic charm 
and its being chronologically the earliest of those selected, 
together with the fact that its very atmosphere is sur- 
charged with sentiments of peaceful retirement and mild 
asceticism. 

68 




GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

I. The Story of Sakoontala, or the Lost Ring, 

BY Kalidasa.i 

From the Ramayana we learn, as already stated in 
Chap, IL, that there was once a Kshatriya king named 
Visvamitra, who, for the purpose of overcoming a famous 
Brahman sage, Vasishta, with whom he had come into 
unequal conflict, underwent, for thousands of years, the 
most terrible austerities, which eventually led to the un- 
precedented honour of his advancement to the Brahmanical 
caste. While the king was engaged in the rigours of his 
self-imposed tortures, the god Indra became jealous of his 
increasing power, and sent a lovely nymph of heaven 
named Menaka to distract his meditations and to seduce 
him from his vows. Visvamitra, unable to resist her allure- 
ments, had the beautiful temptress to share his hermitage 
for many years. 

According to the great Hindu dramatist Kalidasa,^ 
the result of this union was a daughter, Sakoontala, the 
heroine of his now world-famous play. The girl was 
reared in a picturesque and delightful hermitage, or colony 
of hermits, under the guardianship of Kanwa, the chief 
of the anchorites. In this retired spot Dushyanta, of the 
Hneage of the renowned Purus, king of India, when out 
on one of his frequent hunting expeditions, discovered 
Sakoontala, now grown into a lovely graceful maiden in 
her early prime. Although the king had many royal 
consorts, he was large-hearted enough to fall desperately 
in love with the fair recluse when he met her with two 
girl-companions, Priyamvada and Anasuya, under the most 
charming and opportune circumstances ; for Sakoontala at 
the moment was in trouble from the too aggressive and 
persistent attentions of an angry bee whom she had dis- 
turbed amongst the flowers she was gathering. With the 
maiden too it was a case of love at first sight. 

^ SaJcoontala, or the Lost Ring, an Indian drama, translated into English 
prose and verse from the Sanskrit of Kahdasa by Monier Williams, M.A. 
(Hertford, 1855). 

2 Kalidasa was one of the " Nine Gems " of the court of Vikramaditya, 
a famous king, who, according to the most recent reckonings or guesses of 
European chronologists, lived in the sixth century of the Christian era. 

69 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Both victims to Kama's darts suiiered badly from love- 
fever, as their emaciated forms only too clearly and too 
quickly evinced. Through the affectionate, if officious, in- 
terference of Priyamvada and Anasuya, a pair of delightful 
little schemers, it came about quite casually that the 
lovers were by mutual confessions of affection relieved 
from all the haunting doubts that had till then disturbed 
their susceptible hearts. 

It would seem that, while the hermit colony was under 
the control of a chief or abbot, there was also a holy matron 
there, named Gautami, who had especial charge of the 
women and girls of this rural settlement. But, perhaps 
because of her reverence for royalty, her watchfulness 
seems to have been at fault in the present case, for very 
soon, by mutual consent, quite secretly and without cere- 
monies or formaUties of any sort, the king and Sakoontala 
were united in wedlock " by the form of marriage prevalent 
among Indra's celestial musicians." The king, after a brief 
honeymoon, returned to his capital (Hastinapur), leaving his 
new wife with her friends in the hermitage. 

Naturally, Sakoontala was much depressed at this early 
separation from her lord, and, while lost in absent-minded 
reverie near her cottage, no less a person than the great 
sage Durvasas arrived to claim the usual hospitality. 
Apparently, Sakoontala did not notice his coming, an 
omission which so incensed the affronted and irascible 
sage that he vented his angry feelings in this terrible 
curse — 

" Woe to thee, maiden, for daring to slight a guest like me ! 
Shall I stand here unwelcomed ; even I, 
A very mine of penitential merit. 
Worthy of all respect ? Shalt thou, rash maid. 
Thus set at nought the ever sacred ties 
Of hospitality ? and fix thy thoughts 
Upon the cherished object of thy love, 
While I am present ? Thus I curse thee, then — 
He, even he of whom thou thinkest, he 
Shall think no more of thee, nor in his heart 
Retain thy image. Vainly shalt thou strive 
To waken his remembrance of the past ; 
He shall disown thee, even as the sot, 
Roused from his midnight drunkenness, denies 
The words he uttered in his re veilings." 

70 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

Sakoontala, too deeply absorbed in her own thoughts, 
did not even hear the sage's malediction ; but her shrewd 
and ever -watchful girl-friends did, and, fearful of the 
consequences, pleaded with the terrible Durvasas to pardon 
the young and inexperienced offender. Their entreaties so 
far molhfied him that he condescended to say — 

" My word must not be falsified, but at the sight of the 
ring of recognition the spell shall cease." 

Having said this, he disappeared. The girls were 
reassured by his words, recalling to mind the fact that 
when taking his departure from the hermitage the king 
had placed on Sakoontala's finger a ring with his own 
name engraved upon it. 

" She has therefore," as Anasuya sagely said, " a remedy 
for her misfortune at her own command." 

However, with wonderful reticence the two girls kept 
from their dear friend all knowledge both of Durvasas' 
curse and the extent to which he had been prevailed upon 
to modify it. 

While these incidents were taking place, Kanwa, 
Sakoontala's foster-father, and chief of the hermits, was 
away from home, having " gone to Soma-tirtha to pro- 
pitiate Destiny, which threatened his daughter with some 
calamity." 

When Kanwa returned and learned what had happened 
during his absence he fully approved of the marriage which 
had been consummated, and, deeming it the proper course, 
sent Sakoontala, escorted by some hermits, to join her 
royal husband. As became a saint, Kanwa gave his foster- 
child much good advice, including such rules of life as the 
following — 

" Honour thy betters, ever be respectful 
To those above thee ; and should others share 
Thy husband's love, ne'er yield thyself a prey 
To jealousy ; but ever be a friend, 
A loving friend, to those who rival thee 
In his affections." 

As Sakoontala took a most touching farewell of the 
hermitage where she had passed the springtime of her 
days, those dear companions of her girlhood, Priyamvada 

71 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and Anasuya, mindful of Durvasas' curse, whispered to her 
that should the king, by any chance, have forgotten her, 
she should on no account fail to produce the ring, his 
parting present to her. 

Attended by a few hermits, Sakoontala proceeded to 
her husband's capital and was admitted to his presence ; 
but, in fulfilment of Durvasas' malison, the king had lost 
all recollection of her, and, conscientious man that he was, 
declined to receive her, though he was not insensible to 
the personal charms of the beautiful woman who stood 
before him claiming to be his wife. Indignant at his 
conduct, one of the hermits thus addressed the king in 
lofty strain — 

" Beware ! 
Beware how thou insultjthe holy sage ! 
Remember how he generously allowed 
Thy secret union with his foster-child : 
And how, when thou did'st rob him of his treasure. 
He sought to furnish the excuse, when rather 
He should have cursed thee for a ravisher." 

But Dushyanta's memory was really clouded, and he 
would neither acknowledge nor receive Sakoontala. In 
her great sorrow and deep humiliation the poor girl 
referred to the signet ring her royal lover had given her ; 
but, on being asked to produce it, discovered, to her inex- 
pressible dismay and the king's ill-concealed amusement, 
that it was lost. 

The hermits who had accompanied Sakoontala to the 
king's presence now refused to conduct her back to the 
hermitage ; while, on the other hand, the virtuous king, 
who had noticed her condition, would not be guilty of 
receiving into his house one who was evidently the wife of 
another man. 

In this most painful dilemma the king's domestic priest 
generously offered to give the lady an asylum in his own 
house until the birth of her child. Sakoontala while being 
led away bewailed her cruel fate, 

" When suddenly a shining apparition 

In female shape descended from the skies, 

Near the nymph's pool, and bore her up to heaven." 

72 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

Ii was the girl's mother, the celestial nymph Menaka, who 
had come to the rescue of her child. 

Of course the ring was found in due course, and on 
beholding it the king at once recovered his memory of the 
eveiits connected with his happy courtship of Sakoontala 
in the flowery glades of her foster-father's hermitage. 
Between the feehngs of passionate love now reawakened 
in his heart and the bitterest remorse for his cruel treat- 
ment of his now lost darling he was beside himself with grief. 
His mental torment lasted for years, till at length, in their 
own good time, the gods kindly interposed. On the 
pretext of requiring Dushyanta's help against a trouble- 
some race of giants, Indra's charioteer waited on him 
and took him away through the air in a celestial car. After 
being received by the ruler of heaven, he was carried to 
" Golden Peak," the abode of the attendants of the God 
of Wealth, where 

" Kasyapa, 
With Aditi his ^vife, in calm seclusion, 
Does holy penance for the good of mortals." 

The Idng asks his guide — 

" In which direction, Matali, is Kasyapa's sacred retreat ? " 

To which the charioteer, pointing with his hand, 
rephes — 

" Where stands yon anchorite towards the orb 
Of the meridian sun, immovable 
As a tree's stem, his body half concealed 
By a huge ant-hill. Round about his breast 
No sacred cord is twined, but in its stead 
A hideous serpent's skin. In place of necklace, 
The tendrils of a withered creeper chafe 
His wasted neck. His matted hair depends 
In thick entanglement about his shoulders, 
And birds construct their nests within its folds." 

In this sacred region of quiet hermitages, " where the 
holiest sages devote themselves to penitential rites," and 
where mortals, unless favoured by the higher powers, could 
never obtain admission, King Dushyanta was designedly 
brought into contact with his own son, a daring wayward 
infant, who, as becomes a scion of Purus' famous race, loves 

73 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

to play, not mth timid pets, but with lusty young lions. 
The king feels himself strangely drawn towards the fearfess 
handsome child, and after a little while, in accordance with 
the will of the gods, meets Sakoontala herself arrayed 
in the garb of a widow. To her he now explains his 
strange repudiation of her on that memorable day when 
she sought his protection at Hastinapur. He obtains her 
forgiveness, and with the permission and blessing of 
Kasyapa reascends the car of Indra, taking his wife and 
son also, to return to his own capital. The pious king 
leaves " Golden Peak," breathing the characteristically 
Hindu prayer — 

" And may the purple self -existent god, 
Wliose vital energy pervades all space. 
From future transmigrations save my soul." 

How saturated with the feeling of peaceful asceticism 
this charming drama is, does not need to be pointed out ; 
yet I may recall to the reader's memory that it was the 
terror of the gods at Visvamitra's dreadful austerities 
that led to the temptation of the ascetic and the birth of 
the heroine, whose early years were passed blamelessly 
amidst a quiet restful group of well-ordered hermitages, 
a sort of pastoral monastery under an easy tolerant rule. 
The heroine's misfortunes were the result of the curse pro- 
nounced by an affronted ascetic, and, when she is rejected 
by the king, it is to the haven of a celestial hermitage that 
she is translated from Dushyanta's capital. 

Throughout the poem the undoubted power of the ascetic 
and the unquestioned dignity and importance of his calling 
are amply recognised. 

II. Malati and Madhava.^ 

In Bhavabhuti's famous drama, Malati and Madhava^ 
written probably in the eighth century a.d., we have a 
glimpse of one aspect of Indian asceticism wliicli still has 
a great and permanent fascination for the Hindus, viz. the 

^ Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus, translated from the 
original Sanskrit by Horace Hayman Wilson, vol. ii. (Calcutta, 1827). 

74 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

exercise of superhuman power acquired by ascetic practices. 
If only to illustrate this important point, the plot of 
Bhavabhuti's charming drama may be briefly sketched in 
this place. 

The curtain rises upon Kamandaki revealing to her 
disciple Avalokita her desire to bring about a union between 
Madhava and Malati. These two, as mere infants, were, 
by a solemn but secret compact, destined for one an- 
other by their parents. The projected arrangement was 
never revealed to the parties most interested ; and now 
a difficulty arose, for the king's favourite, an old and ugly 
fellow named Nandana, had apphed to his royal master for 
the hand of Malati, and the sovereign had demanded her 
of her father. To frustrate this project, without giving 
offence to his majesty the king, Madhava's father enhsted 
the services of Kamandaki, priestess of Buddha, nurse of 
Malati and preceptress of Madhava. The plan was to 
bring about a purely love affair between the young people, 
and effect a clandestine marriage without the direct inter- 
position of the parents, and to all appearance without their 
knowledge. To this end it was artfully contrived to make 
opportunities for the young people to see each other ; and, 
to help in carrying out the plot, Kamandaki bethinks her 
of a former pupil of hers, one Sandamini, residing on Mount 
Sri Parvata, 

" where, won by desperate penances, 

Power more than earthly waits upon her v/ill." 



The priestess and her disciples, though themselves 
vowed to celibacy, take an ardent and truly feminine 
interest in bringing about the desired result. The action 
of the play extends over only a few days, but they are 
brimful of incident. 

In pursuance of the plot, it is contrived that Malati 
should see Madhava from her window. Of course she 
falls desperately in love with him, and solaces herself by 
drawing a likeness of him. This her foster-sister, who is 
in the plot, cleverly makes over to Mandarika, the servant 
of the convent (vehara dasi), who naturally transfers it to 
the hands of her own lover Kalahansa, Madhava's servant. 

75 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Thus one step is gained. Now, by the advice of one of 
the female disciples of the priestess, Madhava goes to 
Kamadeva's temple, where he sees Malati in all her virgin 
beauty, and straightway falls in love with her. Her ap- 
pearance shows unmistakably that she is herself in love 
with some fortunate youth or other ; but her female 
attendants, when they cast eyes on Madhava, laughing and 
whispering amongst themselves, seemed to say — 

" The Fates have favoured us, 
Lady — behold him there ! " 

The lady on her part did not fail to reveal her admira- 
tion and her feelings towards the young man by expressive 
glances, mute yet eloquent. As she moved away with her 
train of attendants, one of them, her foster-sister Lavangika, 
on pretence of admiring the garland of flowers Madhava 
was wearing, let him know the name and rank of the lady 
he had been admiring so passionately. At the maid's 
request, he presented the garland to Lavangika for the 
acceptance of her fair mistress. 

Madhava relates these events to his friend Makaranda, 
and, while he is doing so, Kalahansa approaches and shows 
them the portrait of Madhava painted by Malati. 

At Makaranda's suggestion, Madhava now draws a 
portrait of his inamorata. Mandarika, the veJiara dasi, 
appears opportunely on the scene, pretending to be in 
search of the picture which Kalahansa had carried off, 
and is given, instead of it, the portrait of Malati just drawn 
by her ardent lover. Thus, through the instrumentality 
of Lavangika and the others, the hero and heroine fall in 
love with one another, and also have their mutual passion 
revealed each to the other. 

Thus far all goes well ; but the proverbial lovers' 
troubles have infalUbly to come, the Idng having duly 
arranged, ^vith the formal consent of her father, to give 
Malati in marriage to Nandana without delay. 

To frustrate the accomplishment of this undesired 
union, Kamandaki and her disciples insidiously instil into 
Malati's mind feelings of revolt against her father, and art- 
fully suggest that Sakoontala and other ladies in the past 

76 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

had selected their own husbands. The conspirators also 
bring about a meeting, at which Madhava makes a personal 
declaration, offering his lady-love his heart and life, an offer- 
ing which Lavangika accepts for her bashful friend, saying — 

" I answer for my friend — she deems the gifts 
Deserving her acceptance." 

Besides the king's desire to confer the hand of Malati 
upon his own favourite, there were other and even more 
serious dangers threatening the accomplishment of the 
union of the two lovers. There was 

" a skull-bearing seer, Aghora Ghanta, 

A wandering mendicant, but dwelling now 
Amidst the neighbouring forest," 

who, for the fulfilment of a powerful rite which would 
terminate all his toils, had decided, in accordance with a 
solemn vow, to sacrifice to the goddess Chaumandra " the 
gem of womankind." 

To fulfil this dreadful object, he had enhsted the 
services of his disciple Kapala Kundala, herself a priestess 
of Chaumandra. This priestess of the dread goddess is 
described as " freed from all perishable bonds," and she 
obviously possessed wonderful powers, for she first appears 
upon the scene riding through the air in a heavenly car, 
dressed in a hideous garb and girdled with human skulls. 
The temple of Chaumandra stood alongside a cremation 
ground, into which Madhava had gone in the dead of night 
with a lump of human flesh in his hand to win the favour, 
or compel the assistance, of the goblins who infested that 
gruesome spot. While pursuing his object a cry of dis- 
tress comes to him from within the temple, and, recognising 
with horror the voice of Malati, he hurries thither. 

Inside the temple, dressed in scarlet and adorned with a 
garland, stands Malati, the destined sacrifice, and round about 
her circles Aghora Ghanta with quick steps, addressing the 
dread goddess in such prescribed terms of praise as would be 
acceptable to her. Kapala Kundala was in attendance, and 
at the proper moment, facing the trembUng victim, said — 

" Fair maid, 
Think upon him whom thou in life hast loved, 
For pitiless death is near thee." 

77 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

But, before Aghora Ghanta's sword could fall upon 
the unhappy girl, her lover had sprung to her side and 
forcibly prevented the bloody rite. Meanwhile, by the 
command of Kamandaki, the aged priestess of Buddha, 
and quite unconnected with Madhava's interposition, the 
fane was surrounded, and the exciting temple scene comes 
to a close with an unfinished fight between Aghora Ghanta 
and Madhava. However, we learn incidentally, in the next 
act, that the result of this conflict was fatal to the wander- 
ing mendicant, and we find Kapala Kundala vowing 
vengeance against Madhava for the death of her venerable 
guru} 

The artful resources of Kamandaki are not exhausted. 
Malati, dressed for her marriage with Nandana, the king's 
favourite, is conducted in state to a temple, where, 
unknown to her, Madhava and his friend Makaranda are 
concealed. The girl is in despair, and, wishing to take her 
own life, reveals her purpose to Lavangika and asks her to 
consent. As the fair and distracted lady kneels to^iher, 
Lavangika moves away, and Madhava takes her place. 
The deception is presently detected, and a pretty love 
scene results. The priestess Kamandaki now steps up, 
and, interposing as the instrument of Fate and Love, 
confers Malati upon her enamoured swain. Makaranda 
dresses up in the bride's attire and personates Malati. 
The lovers are then bid to proceed quickly to the garden 
of the sanctuary, where, in anticipation of events, the 
necessary provision had already been made for the per- 
formance of their bridal ceremonies. 

Makaranda plays his part as a woman so well that he 
quite deceives Nandana, but, when installed as his bride, 
handles the astonished bridegroom so severely that he 
leaves the house in a rage. Nandana's sister Madayantika 
comes to remonstrate with her dear friend upon her 
unseemly conduct, but to her astonishment, and secret 
dehght, finds in the supposed Malati the youth who had, 

^ That Aghora Ghanta and his disciple should have failed in their object, 
after propitiating the goddess as they did, is attributed by the Hindu 
commentator either to their wickedness or their inaccurate pronunciation 
of some part of the ritual. — Note to p. 60 of Professor Wilson's translation. 

78 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

at tlie risk of his life, gallantly rescued her from a 
ferocious tiger. They were mutually in love these two, 
and their strange meeting in Nandana's palace ends in an 
elopement — the lovers making for the place to wliich 
Madhava and Malati had already gone. Fate, however, 
had yet more adventures in store for them. On the way 
they were stopped by the town guard. Makaranda singly 
keeps the guard in check while his bride and attendants 
get away. On learning the state of affairs, Madhava 
hurries off to help his friend. Malati thoughtfully 
despatches a couple of attendants to apprise Kamandaki 
of the course of events, and directs Lavangika to overtake 
her lord and implore him to shun all needless danger. 
Lavangika does not return as quickly as Malati could wish, 
and after a while the bride, unable to bear the absence of 
her lord, follows him. She is met, alone and unprotected, 
by her arch-enemy Kapala Kundala. Malati, terrified, 
instinctively cries in an undertone, "Ah! husband!" To 
which the cruel priestess of Chaumandra replies tauntingly — 

" Yes, call upon him. 
Where is your love — the murderer of the pious. 
The youthful paramour of wanton girls ? 
Let liim — your husband — save you, if he can. 
Bird of the wild, that tremblest to behold 
The hovering hawk — what canst thou hope, long marked 
My prey ? I bear thee with me to Sri Parvata, 
There to consign thee to a painful death. 
Torn piecemeal — victim of my just revenge." 

With these taunting and menacing words the ruthless 
priestess carried Malati off. 

While this abduction was taking place, the two heroes 
who had routed the town guard were nevertheless taken 
before the king, charged with having borne away the 
Minister's daughter. 

The king, however, being rather pleased at the prowess 
displayed by the two young men, treated the matter 
lightly, and the offenders were set at Hberty, to find on 
their return that Malati had disappeared mysteriously. 

Overwhelmed by his loss, Madhava wanders away to 
the mountains in a fit of despair which knows no consola- 
tion, accompanied by his ever-faithful friend Makaranda. 

79 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

On the breezy mountains he indulges his grief till both 
reason and life are threatened. Makaranda is so deeply- 
moved by his companion's sad fate and desperate condition 
that he distractedly contemplates suicide, and is in the 
very act of precipitating himself from the rocks when he 
is arrested by Sandammi. In reply to his inquiry who she 
might be, Sandamini tells him that she is a yogini, " the 
mistress of supernal power," and she shows him the garland 
which Malati had been wearing when she disappeared. 
A few minutes later Madhava learns from her that Malati 
had been carried off by Kapala Kundala, that she still lived, 
and that for her protection Sandamini would exert 

" The powerful knowledge which mystic rites and prayers. 
Devout observance, and a sainted teacher 
Had armed her with." 

As a matter of fact, she had actually rescued the girl 
from the vengeful hands of her inveterate enemy. 

Calling upon Madhava to accompany her, they both 
instantly disappeared. A little later, at a most critical 
moment, when Malati's father was about to commit suicide 
on a funeral pyre on account of her supposed death, 
Sandamini, the wonder-working yogini, conveyed the lovers 
to their friends, and, by securing the consent of the king 
and their respective parents to the union of Madhava and 
Malati, brings about a happy denouement. 

Many are the reflections which this charming drama 
awakens. We find all the usual devices of the modern 
European romancers resorted to in the plots and counter- 
plots of this old Hindu play. We have the hero and 
heroine driven by untoward circumstances and fiendish 
conspiracies to the very brink of despair, and then oppor- 
tunely rescued just in time to obviate the most serious 
consequences. Scarcely do we rejoice with them in their 
safety and happiness, when they are involved in new and 
even more serious troubles than before ; yet we feel con- 
fident that all will end well, and our expectations are not 
disappointed. So far we are on familiar ground. But as 
we watch the drama unfolded we are always conscious that 
the framework of society and the conditions and modes of 

80 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

social intercourse depicted in the play, as well as the 
religious sentiments pervading it, are alien to the West. 
The weird scenes in the cemetery at night and in the 
temple hard by are essentially and characteristically Indian, 
and so also are the thaumaturgies of the wandering 
mendicant, the priestesses, and the yogini, who have acquired 
their superhuman power only through the practice of severe 
austerities. 



III. Disillusionment. 

In a certain village, within the dominions of a famous 
Rajah, there lived a poor Brahman woman with her only 
child, a little boy of tender years. By the labour of her 
hands, particularly by grinding corn for her neighbours, 
the widow earned a bare subsistence for herself and her 
son. Of course their fare was of the simplest and coarsest 
kind. 

One day a prosperous villager who was celebrating a 
happy domestic event gave the Brahman boy a hearty meal 
of rice cooked in milk and sweetened with sugar, luxuries 
to which, till that time, the child had been a stranger. 
Next day, when his usual cake of coarse brown bread was 
offered to him, the boy, mindful of the dainties of the 
previous day, refused to eat it. He wanted milk and rice 
and sugar ! 

" That," said his mother, " is more than I can give you. 
Devi alone can gratify your wishes." 

Now, not far from where these indigent people lived 
there stood a temple of Devi, but in so ruined and 
neglected a condition that no one visited it. Its walls 
were rent from top to bottom, and even Devi's image was 
cracked and mutilated. 

To this dilapidated shrine repaired the Brahman boy, 
and prayed the presiding goddess to grant him rice and 
milk for his meals. For four days he lay in the temple, 
refusing to partake of the food offered him by his mother. 
At last, taking compassion on the infant suppHant, the 
eight-armed goddess appeared before him in person and 
asked what favour he sought. 
F 8l 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

" Only rice and milk every day," replied the child. 

" You shall have it," responded the benign goddess, " but 
ask for something more important than that." 

The little Brahman, the horizon of whose ideas was 
extremely limited, had no other request to prefer, so Devi 
graciously handed him an amritphal or fruit conferring 
immortaUty. 

The widow, deeming this gift much too good for one 
in their humble circumstances, advised her boy to present 
it to the Rajah, who would doubtless make such a pecuniary 
return for it as would enable them to live the remainder 
of their lives in peace and comfort. Ushered into the 
king's presence, the child handed him the wonderful fruit 
and told the story concerning it. 

After accepting the offering and rewarding the little 
donor in a suitable manner, the Rajah put the wonderful 
fruit aside, thinking in his heart that the cares of his posi- 
tion were too great to make it worth while to prolong 
his life indefinitely, but he decided mentally that his 
beloved Rani should be presented with the amritphal, and 
having eaten it enjoy perpetual youth. To her, therefore, 
he gave the fruit that same day ; but she, consumed with 
love for a certain darogah, secretly made it over to that 
officer. Though he was the paramour of the Rani, this 
darogah really loved a courtesan in the town, and that 
same night she was made the possessor of the Devi's gift. 

To prolong her sinful life did not seem a very inviting 
prospect to this Rahab, and thinking over the matter she 
arrived at the conclusion that the Rajah, who was a kind 
and just ruler, and the father of his people, would be the 
most worthy recipient of such an important gift as a fruit 
of immortality ; so, in the morning, she carried it to his 
majesty and laid it respectfully at his feet. 

" Where did you get this ? " inquired the astonished 
Rajah, recognising the strange fruit which was raised in no 
terrestrial orchard. 

" From the darogah of the horses," was the courtesan's 
reluctant reply. 

In an instant the whole painful truth flashed upon the 
disillusioned king. 

82 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

" What," mused he, " is human happiness or kingly 
dignity, when my Rani can thus betray my honour, and 
when her plebeian paramour can prefer the favours of a 
courtesan to those of a queen ! " 

Overwhelmed by these bitter reflections upon that 
well-worn theme " all is vanity," the good king abandoned 
his throne, and, turning his back upon the world, became a 
sadhu ; ^ and this step of his is the reason why the present 
story appears here, affording as it does a characteristically 
Hindu illustration of a sentiment — cruel disillusionment — 
which probably more than any other has driven men in all 
countries to join the ranks of the discontented contemners 
of the world's hollow pleasures. 

IV. The Horned Rishi.^ 

There was once a sadhu named Shringhi Rikh (having 
horns). He lived in a dense forest, worshipping God and 
knowing nothing of the life of towns and villages, or of the 
ways of men. In this manner the solitary hermit passed 
many years, till at length a dire famine visited the land. 
When this calamity came, the king naturally asked his 
vazir (prime minister) what was to be done to alleviate 
the sufferings of his people, and that high officer prudently 
advised that the Brahmans should be formally consulted with 
a view to the adoption of some suitable course of action. 

They were accordingly sent for by the king, and re- 
quested to say how the famine was to be stayed, and how 
the much-needed rain was to be obtained to fertilise the 
thirsty fields. 

The wise Brahmans, having considered the matter, re- 
pHed that the famine was not a judgment from Heaven 
due to any sins committed by the king himself, and that 
the earth would certainly be blessed with rain if the 
" horned rislii " who dwelt in the forest could by any means 

^ Substantially the same story, but in a somewhat different form, is told 
in the Baital Pachisi. 

2 This and the four following stories are from the Granth of Guru Govind 
Singh, which contains no less than four hundred and four tales respecting 
the wiles of women. 

83 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

be induced to take up his abode in the city, for so was it 
written in the holy Shastras. 

The Rajah, losing no time, sent messengers to induce 
the ascetic to come to his capital ; but the horned saint 
heeded them not, so the sovereign went in person to the 
anchorite ; but even he could not prevail upon Shringhi 
Rikh to leave his forest-home and the asceticisms in which 
he was engaged. 

In this difficult crisis, a harlot, gaudily dressed and 
with her lips reddened with the pdn she was eating, pre- 
sented herself before the Rajah and said to him jauntily — 

" king, I will bring Shringhi Rikh to you, on con- 
dition that when I do so you will give me one half of your 
kingdom. If you agree to this I shall make the saint 
shave ofi his matted locks and put on a turban, and, having 
quite subdued him, I shall lead him into your majesty's 
presence," adding confidently, " With my beauty I can do 
anything I like." 

The worthy Rajah, acting for the benefit of his lieges, 
accepted these extravagant conditions, and the fair wanton 
went of? to the jungles where the sadhii lived. Taking 
with her a party of beautiful women arrayed in finery and 
dressed to perfection, she prepared a habitation for herself 
in the woods, and on the trees around her temporary abode 
she hung ludoos ^ and other delicacies, and, when all her 
arrangements were complete, commenced singing to the 
dulcet accompaniment of musical instruments. 

The rishi, seeing these unaccustomed sights, and hear- 
ing sweet sounds, the like of which had never before reached 
his ears, became astonished, and in his perplexity came 
to the conclusion that they must be due to visitants from 
another world. Feeling hungry, he ventured to pluck 
some of the novel fruits (ludoos) he discovered growing on 
the trees near by. He found them deliciously sweet and 
quite to his taste, and, wondering how such " fruits " had 
appeared there, attributed them to the god Indra. 

" Perhaps," soliloquised the sadhu, " the god has been 
graciously pleased with my austerities and has come down 
in person to witness them." 

^ A Ivdoo is a well-known Indian sweetmeat. 

84 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

While thus reflecting, he noticed a woman beautifully 
dressed and decked with costly jewellery standing a little 
way off. So lovely was she that the mere sight of her 
removed all his cares. He wondered who she could possibly 
be, and asked himself, " From what distant world is this 
enchanting visitant ? " 

Suspending his austerities, he approached the woman, 
and, filled with wonder, sat down near her ; then growing 
bolder went up to her, and, bowing low, said to her — 

" Tell me, who art thou ? Art thou the consort of 
Shiv-ji or of Vishnu ? TeU me." 

She said, " I am not a goddess, but the wife of Oodaluk 
rishi. Hearing of you — for your fame has spread far and 
wide — I have come to make you my husband." 

Having thus spoken, she lavished flatteries upon him, 
and in a short time, by exercising her seductive charms 
upon the recluse, she subdued him to her purpose, and 
before long brought him away, a willing captive, to the 
nearest village. When she conducted Shringhi Rikh into 
the Rajah's domains the rain began to fall, as the Brahmans 
had predicted, and the hearts of the people rejoiced greatly. 

The rishi was then married to one of the Rajah's 
daughters, and continued to live in his father-in-law's 
territories, which for a long time derived the greatest 
benefit and good fortune from his presence. However, it 
came to pass that eventually his residence in the land 
caused an excess of rain, and it was thought desirable to 
lure him back to his old mode of life. So the services of 
the courtesan were once again called into requisition, and 
she successfully persuaded the sadlm to return to his former 
woodland haunts, where he resumed his long-interrupted 
austerities.^ 

^ Faith in the help of saintly sadhus during seasons of drought is not 
extinct amongst the Hindus even of our own times, 

" With the progress of the season the area of crop failure in India is 
becoming narrowed and defined. Northern Bombay, some of the native 
States in Central India and Rajputana, vath. adjoining portions of the 
Punjab, are involved, though it is still doubtful whether the loss of both 
harvests will be complete over very considerable tracts. There are sufficient 
food stocks in the country, and rising prices will secure economy in their 
consumption. Relief measures are ready. One feudatory State discovered 

8s 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 



V. The Lost Son Restored. 

Tliere was at one time a very great Raj all named Sukret 
Singh. His Rani's name was Jewankala. To them a 
son was born ; but for some reason or other the infant was 
not satisfactory to his unnatural mother, so she quietly 
flung the baby into the sea, and informed her husband 
that a tiger had carried him off. The Rajah, beheving 
his wife's story, comforted her, saying, " Permashwar 
(God) will give you more sons." Yet twenty-five years 
passed after this event, and the Rani was not blessed 
with another child. 

One day about this period — that is, twenty-five years 
after the disappearance of her infant — the Rani saw a 
very handsome young man, and, her heart becoming captive 
to his beauty, she sent a hichauliya (a female go-between) 
to invite him to a clandestine interview. He came at the 
Rani's request, and gratified her wicked desires. With the 
cunning of the serpent she confided to her new lover the 
true story of her baby's disappearance, and how she had 
falsely stated that he had been carried off by a tiger. 

" Now," said the Rani to her paramour, " I want you 
to understand that you were carried away by a jogi in the 
form of a tiger, that instead of destroying you the sadhu 
reared you himself, and that, knowing you to be a king's 
son, he had disclosed to you these important facts of your 
history before going away on a journey to a very distant 
land." 

The Rani thus taught the young man, and he agreed 
to act in accordance with her wishes. 

A day or two afterwards the Rani said to her husband, 

a resource denied to the British Government, and thereby secured a special 
rainfall all to itself while surrounding districts remained drought-stricken. 
A wandering Brahman of peculiar sanctity was followed by crowds, who 
gave him no peace till he consented to apply his occult powers to the relief 
of their parched fields. Worn out by their importunities, the holy man at 
last sat down and vowed he would not rise till the water flowed over his feet. 
In two hoiu-s the brazen sky was overcast, rain set in, and twelve hours 
later the Brahman was ankle-deep. The situation was saved — and the man. 
This, at least, is the report semi-officially furnished by the State to the 
political officer." — Saturday Review, 7th October 1899. 

86 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

" I have strange but very important news for you. Our 
baby son, who was carried away by a tiger, was really taken 
by a jogi in the form of a tiger, but he did not devour our 
child. His chelas brought him other children for his feasts, 
and he spared ours because he was a king's son. I have 
myself seen and recognised our lost child." 

The Rajah, Ustening with astonishment to these wonder- 
ful assertions, said — 

" Send for him, and let me hear the story from his own 
lips." 

Thereupon the young man was summoned to the palace 
and questioned. 

" What really happened," said he, " how can I possibly 
know ? — but what the jogi told me, that will I truthfully 
relate." And he proceeded to repeat what the Rani had 
taught him. She, acting her part well, appeared to be 
overcome with emotion at the young man's statements, 
wept false tears copiously, and in the very presence of the 
Rajah, making her lover her son, embraced him affection- 
ately and, lamenting their long separation, kissed him on 
the lips again and again. She had a bed made for him 
in her own room, and could not bear her lost darling out 
of her sight, even for a few minutes. During the eight 
watches of the day and night she guarded him from further 
danger, and enjoyed herself right well. 

VI. A Kind-hearted Lady. 

In the city of Sirhand there lived a jogi named Swar- 
ganath and also a certain woman, Sri Chhah Man Mati, 
who fell desperately in love with him. 

One day the jogi was in her house when it was made 
known to her that her husband was ^on the point of return- 
ing home — in fact, was quite close at hand. 

Grasping the decidedly serious situation, she thus hastily 
addressed her lover — 

" Take up your sword at once and shout angrily, ' The 
thief who has robbed me has entered here. You have con- 
cealed him ; drive him away ; I will certainly kill him ! ' " 

At the same time she actually hid upon the premises 

87 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the jogi'^s chela, a fellow who used to come with his master 
as his bodyguard and had been appointed to the post of 
door-keeper and sentinel during his guru's surreptitious 
visits to the frail, if fair, lady. 

While matters were being thus hastily arranged, the 
husband arrived at his home. The jogi, with much 
simulated wrath, repeated the words he had been taught, 
but after a short yet furious howl of rage he went away, 
brandishing his sword in a menacing fashion. 

" Dear husband," said the lady, explaining the situation 
to her bewildered lord, " that jogi was burning with anger 
owing to some mistake made by his chela. He was going 
to kill him, and would have done so but for the asylum I 
have afforded him. I permitted the poor fellow to hide 
himself in our house, and thus avoid the consequences of 
his guru^s wrath. Now let us release him. He is hidden 
in that corner," pointing to the place of concealment. 

The husband was very pleased with the thoughtful 
kindness displayed by his charming wife. So the man 
who had been concealed in the house was quietly hurried 
off the premises, and went away joyfully to rejoin his 
worthy guru — the amorous jogi, very gratified, indeed, that 
matters had in the end turned out so satisfactorily for 
himself. 

VII. The Father Duped.^ 

There was a Rajah named Nilkate of Popeewutee city. 
Mangubechater, his wife, was like an incarnation of the 
goddess of love, and their daughter, named Sri Algun- 
jamuttee, so beautiful that it might be said of her that she 
excelled the moon in brilliancy and appeared to have been 
fashioned by the hand of Brahma himself. There was a 
neighbouring Rajah, Srimantilk by name, too handsome to 
be described. So incomparable, indeed, was he that the 
sun, seeing his perfection, became ashamed of himself. 
Once Sri Algunjamuttee went to a garden to while away 

^ In this and the following tale the text of the originals has been 
rendered more literally than in the preceding stories, though the giossness 
of language which is characteristic of so many of these productions has been 
avoided. 

^2> 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

her time with other girls of her own age. There she 
happened to see Rajah Srimantilk, and became enamoured 
of him. She was so afiected by this sudden passion that 
when she went home she was like a gambler who had lost 
all he ever possessed. By a signal from her eyes she 
summoned to her side one of her young and trusted 
companions, and, giving her gold and jewels, entreated her 
to bring about a union between herself and the young Rajah 
who had so completely captured her susceptible heart. 

" If I do not get him," said the love-sick princess, " 1 
shall turn a yogini, and, flinging away all my jewels and 
finery, fly to the lonely forests ; or, taking a beggar's gourd 
in my hand, I shall wander about the world, living upon 
the alms of the charitable. I want him to be the very 
apple of my eye, and failing that I shall kill myself. Alas ! 
why have I lived so long to suffer all this torture, all this 
burning pain ? " 

When the girl- companion saw her distress, she came 
close up to her and, laughing, said in her ear — 

" Don't fret ; I'll send some clever woman to him." 

These simple words seemed very sweet to the love-lorn 
princess in her great trouble. 

In accordance with her promise, the girl-friend sent a 
clever hichauUya to Rajah Srimantilk, the princess herself 
merely saying — 

" Do what is necessary, but save my life." 

The hichauliya followed after the Rajah, who was out 
hunting. She dressed herself in costly garments, and 
decked herself out with jewels of rare beauty and value. 
When the Rajah saw such a lovely creature, a being like a 
real peri, in the midst of the jungle, he was astonished. 

" Is this resplendent creature of the race of the Devtas, 
Gandharbas, Daityas, or Nagas, or is she really human ? 
Let me inquire why she has come here. Is she not 
lovely ? " 

Thinking thus, the Rajah approached her, and, viewing 
her beauty at close quarters, fell in love with her at once. 

The hichauUya, on her part, handed him a pearl neck- 
lace and a letter from her mistress, and while doing so 
said — 

89 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

" You, sir, I can see, have fallen in love with my 
beauty ; but she who has written this is a thousand times 
more lovely than I. Come with me and feast your eyes." 

The Rajah, enticed by this glowing description of the 
charms of the princess, agreed to accompany her faithful 
messenger. He forgot all about his own affairs, and, filled 
with the idea of the lovely princess, he put the handsome 
bichauUya into his chariot and drove where she directed 
him to go. The way was long, but at last they arrived 
near the palace of the love-sick princess. The Rajah now 
disguised himself as a sadhu and lit his fire within sight 
of her window. Daily, with the permission of her father, 
used the princess to come and piously feed the good sadhu 
with her own hands. At night, when everyone was asleep, 
she would visit him also. In this way the princess was 
very happy. No one recognised the disguised Rajah or 
suspected what was going on. One day Sri Algunjamuttee 
went to her father and deliberately said things which she 
knew would excite his anger. She succeeded well enough, 
for the king became so enraged that he ordered his vazir 
to turn her out of doors into the jungle. When she heard 
this royal command Sri Algunjamuttee pretended to be 
very unhappy, and cried bitterly, though secretly rejoicing 
in her heart. The incensed and implacable father's 
peremptory command, " Take her away at once," was of 
course obeyed implicitly, and the princess was conveyed 
to the forest, and left there. 

But in a very short time her lover came and joined 
her, and, after they had enjoyed themselves to their hearts' 
content, he carried her off to his own city. 

VIII. Woman's Cunning. 

Jogsain was the name of a certain Rajah, and his Rani's 
name was Sri Sanyaspati. She had a son born to her, 
who, when he grew up, was very beautiful. In the city 
over which Jogsain ruled there was a Jat woman who fell 
desperately in love with the young prince, and though she 
used, on one pretence or another, to see him every day, 
yet she found no opportunity of attaining her wishes. To 

90 



GLIMPSES OF SADHUS IN INDIAN FICTION 

gain her object, she disguised herself as a jogi, and went to 
the Rajah's palace, giving out that she was well versed in 
janter, manter, tanter (tahsmans, spells, and magic rites). 
Seizing a favourable opportunity, the pretended jogi said to 
the Rajah's son — 

" If you will come with me to a lonely place, I shall 
show you some wonders that will astonish you." 

The prince and jogi talked over the proposal ; the prince's 
curiosity was greatly excited, and he said — 

" I have never been out alone at night, but I will accom- 
pany you, since you are a jogi, if you promise to raise the 
spirits of the dead in my presence." 

The pretended jogi engaged to perform this great miracle 
to pleasure the king's son, and the two started out together 
on their strange, unholy business. When they had pene- 
trated, side by side, some little way into the lonely jungles, 
the jogi, turning suddenly towards the prince, and taking 
him entirely by surprise, said sharply — 

" Now do as I bid you, or I will kill you on this spot." 

The prince, quite unprepared for such a contingency, 
became alarmed and lost his presence of mind. 

The -pseudo-jogi thereupon stated her wishes without 
any circumlocution, and her companion willy-nilly yielded 
to her wicked desires. 

The depth of woman's cunning is unfathomable ! God 
created her ; but Himself repents it. 

The foregoing tales speak for themselves, and, while 
throwing some Hght upon the conduct of love affairs in 
the East, show, amongst other things, that although the 
Indians feel that sadhuism is honourable and respectable, 
they are none the less quite alive to- the great convenience 
of the sadhu's habit, as a disguise, for the successful conduct 
of amatory intrigues. 



91 



CHAPTER VI 

SADHUS AS DESCRIBED BY SOME EUROPEAN 
VISITORS TO INDIA 



Greek and Roman Accounts of Sadhus and their Practices — Observations 
regarding Sadhus and their Peculiarities recorded in the Works of the 
Jeweller Tavernier, the Physician Bernier, the " Senior Merchant " 
James Forbes, the Missionary Ward, Colonel Sleeman, and Bishop 
Heber. 



ISTORTION arising from 
ignorance and prejudice 
is unavoidably present 
in all pictures of an 
alien civilisation drawn 
by visitors coming from 
countries remote both 
geographically and in- 
tellectually ; yet these 
pictures have their value, 
affording as they often do 
important facts — wrongly 
interpreted, perhaps, but still facts — for the formation 
of a judgment in respect to the growth and development 
of customs and institutions. For this reason it seems 
desirable to recall to mind such particulars and impres- 
sions in regard to sadhus as European travellers, or residents 
in India of a bygone age, have placed on record for 
the benefit of their contemporaries and succeeding genera- 
tions. 

With what admiring wonderment the Greeks and 
Romans regarded India and its strange people after the 
Macedonian invader lifted the veil which had for ages 
separated from the Western nations that mysterious land 

92 




SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

and its tranquil civilisation, classical literature amply 

testifies. 

Amidst the many unaccustomed objects and institutions 
which attracted the attention of European visitors beyond 
the InduSj the ascetic philosophers (Brahman and Buddhist) 
and their peculiar ways were not the least interesting. 
Appreciative stories of the wisdom of these philosophers — 
gymnosophists the Greeks called them — have come down to 
us, with descriptions of some of the curious penances to 
which they subjected themselves. From these narratives 
we learn that the ascetic sages, who were held in the very 
highest honour by both the people and their rulers, lived 
an austere life, often in communities ; that they studied 
self-control, spent much of their time in serious discourses 
and in imparting wisdom to others, teaching " that the 
best doctrine was that which removed pleasure and grief 
from the mind." ^ As to their self -mortifications, the Greek 
and Roman accounts show that in their nature they were 
very similar to, though probably not so severe as, those 
practised in India at later periods. For example, one of 
these ascetics would lie naked on his back in the open air, 
enduring all the vicissitudes of scorching sunshine and 
chilling rain ; another would stand for hours on one leg, 
supporting with both hands above his head a beam of wood 
some three cubits long ; a third would fix his gaze upon the 
rising sun, and stare at the great luminary all day till he 
disappeared below the western horizon. And, when afflicted 
with disease or tired of life, these wise men of India would 
sometimes erect a pyre and voluntarily perish in the flames 
in the presence of the multitude. 

Having satisfied ourselves, from Greek and Roman 
sources, of the antiquity of the ascetic practices of the 
Indian sages, we may, passing over many centuries, profit- 
ably take stock, even cursorily, of the facts and impressions 
regarding sadhus which some of the comparatively modern 
European visitors to India, and official or other residents 
there, have recorded in their published works. 

When M. Ta vernier travelled in the Mogul Empire as 
a dealer in precious stones, about the middle of the seven- 

^ Strabo, M'Crindle's Ancient India, p. 71. 

93 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

teenth century, the land he saw was very different in many 
important respects from that which had met the eyes of 
the Macedonian hero. 

Many and striking changes had naturally occurred 
during the two thousand years which had elapsed since 
the fourth century before Christ. New world-religions had 
arisen since then, and the followers of the latest born of 
these creeds — ahens from Central Asia — were masters 
of a great part of India when the Frenchman travelled 
there. Yet the sadhu was still a prominent figure in Indian 
life, and Hindu ascetics were, as in Greek times, much 
in evidence everywhere, for M. Tavernier speaks of 
the " infinite multitude of faquirs that swarm all over 
India," generally moving about in large parties and quite 
naked. 

These faquirs — for so he designates sadhus of all sects 
— were, he tells us, followers or imitators of Ravan, the 
demon-king of Lanka, who abducted the fair Sita from her 
hermitage in the woods of Dandaka. This, of course, is 
incorrect ; for though, according to the legends, Ravan had 
been a great ascetic in his time, and acquired superhuman 
power by his austerities, none of the ascetic sects set up 
for being his followers. But though Tavernier's knowledge 
of the origin of the sadhus was on a par with that of most 
European visitors to India up to and including our own 
time, still he certainly took intelhgent note of what came 
under his own observation in regard to the severe aus- 
terities practised by some of them. In the English version 
of his travels, published in London in 1684, there is a 
curious engraving illustrating some of these self-inflicted 
tortures.^ 

This plate appeared to me so interesting for many reasons 
that I reproduce it (Fig. 6), together with the following 
explanatory notes by our author : — 

No. 1 is the part where the Bramins paint their idols ; such as Mainaniva, 
Siva, Madedina, aud others, whereof they have a great number. 

No. 2 is a figure of Mamaniva, which is in the pagod. 

No. 3 is another pagod near the former. There stands a cow at the door, 
and within stands the figure of their god Ram. 

^ Travels in India, part ii. book ii. chap. vi. 

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SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

No. 4 is another pagod, into^ which the faquirs that do penance often 
retire. 

No, 5 is another pagod dedicated to Ram. 

No. 6 is a hut into which a faquir makes his retirement several times a 
year, there being but one hole to let in the light. He stays there 
according to the height of his devotion, sometimes nine or ten days 
together, without either eating or drinking ; a thing which I could not 
have beHeved had I not seen it. 

No. 7 is a figure of another penitentiary, over whose head several years have 
passed ; and yet he never slept day nor night. When he finds himself 
sleepy, he hangs the weight of the upper part of his body upon a double 
rope that is fastened to one of the boughs of the tree ; and by the 
continuance of this posture, which is very strange and painful, there 
falls a humour into their legs that swells them very much. 

No. 8 is the figure of two postures of two doing penance, who, as long as 
they Uve, carry their arms above their heads in that manner ; which 
causes certain carnosities to breed in the joynts, that they can never 
bring them down again. Their hair grows do-woi to their wasts, and 
their nails are as long as their fingers. Night and day, winter and 
summer, they go ahvays stark naked in the same posture, exposed 
to the heat and rain and the stinging of the flies, from which they 
have not the use of their hands to rid themselves. In other necessi- 
ties they have other faquirs in their company, always ready to assist 
them. 

No. 9 is the posture of another penitent, who every day for several hours 
stands upon one foot, holding a chafing-dish in his hand, into which he 
pours incense, as an offering to his god, fixing his eyes all the while 
upon the sun. 

Nos. 10 and 11 are the figijres of two other penitents sitting with their 
hands raised above their heads in the air. 

No. 12 is the posture wherein the penitents sleep, without ever resting their 
arms ; which is certainly one of the greatest torments the body of man 
can suffer. 

No. 13 is the posture of a penitent whose arms, through weakness, hang 
flagging down upon his shoulders, being dried up for want of nourish- 
ment. 
There are an infinite number of other penitents, some who, in a posture 

quite contrary to the motion and frame of nature, keep their eyes always 

turned toward the sun ; others who fix their eyes perpetually upon the 

ground, never so much as speaking one word or looking any person in the 

face. And indeed there is such an infinite variety of them that would 

render the further discourse of them more tedious. 

True it is that I have hid those parts which modesty will not suffer to 

be exposed to view. But they both in city and country go all as naked as 

they came out of their mothers' wombs. 

Although the worthy gem merchant evidently did not 
understand the motives or ideas of these " penitents," 
as he styles them, his testimony is conclusive as to the fact 
that sadhuism was flourishing in his day. And strange 

95 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

to relate, the contagion of sadhuism, indigenous to the 
soil, seems to have so affected the Muhammadan rulers 
of India, that, besides the peripatetic Hindu ascetics, 
Tavernier met bands of almost naked Mushm dervishes 
wandering over the country, sometimes, as became members 
of the dominant race, exceedingly haughty and overbearing 
in their demeanour. One such band, consisting of about 
forty-seven persons, all well armed, including a few who 
had held very high positions in the Imperial Court, is specially 
mentioned by our traveller. Although proceeding on foot, 
this band of Mushm ascetics had many fine horses led 
before them, their saddles and bridles adorned with gold 
and silver ornaments, and they had also ten or twelve 
oxen to carry their sick. Arriving at the spot where Tavernier 
had pitched his camp in the most convenient position he 
could find, the armed and wealthy dervishes desired him 
to vacate it, as they needed the place themselves, and the 
Frenchman thought it prudent to yield to their request 
without demur. 

Notwithstanding their pomp and self-assertion, these 
wandering ascetics lived upon alms obtained by begging, 
for were they not faquirs? However, in aU probability it 
was fear which made the people comply, as did Tavernier 
himself, with their demands. 

This picture of truculent Muslim faquirs, affording 
as it does a striking contrast to that of the mild Hindu 
ascetics known from the earliest times to our own day, 
has, as an index of the inwardness of Islam, an obvious 
value. 

The physician Fran9ois Bernier, who during the reign 
of the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb travelled extensively 
in India, and met M. Tavernier there, does not fail to 
mention " the vast number and endless variety of faquirs " 
he encountered. Of these the jogis seem to have made 
most impression upon him, not by their religious or philo- 
sophical professions, but by their repulsive appearance. 
From his narrative it is evident that the practice of 
holding the arms perpetually above the head was a 
common one with the sadhus in his day, — much more 
common, I should say, than it is at the present time, — but 

96 



SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

the only feeling which this cruel self-torture seems to 
have awakened in the mind of the French physician was 
one of disgust ; for. alluding to those who adopt this 
unnatural attitude, he says, " No fury in the infernal 
regions can be conceived more horrible than the jauguis, 
with their naked and black skin, long hair, spindle arms, 
long twisted nails, and fixed in the posture I have 
mentioned." ^ 

Bernier was so far correctly informed that he realised 
that the object of the jogis was union with God ; and he 
relates that one of the jogis^ evidently a man of some 
reputation, assured him that he could at pleasure fall 
into a trance, during which he would be blessed with a 
ravishing vision of God and transports of holy joy beyond 
description. Bernier understood that penances were 
commonly endured for the attainment of some definite 
advantage in a new birth, — for example, reappearance on 
earth as a Rajah, — and he was also acquainted with the 
fact that many sadhus set up claims to the possession of 
magical powers, and that such claims were readily admitted 
by the people. 

The testimony of this enlightened traveller, corroborat- 
ing that of his contemporary Tavernier, leaves no doubt 
that two hundred and fifty years ago Hindu rehgious 
devotees abounded in the Mogul Emperor's dominions ; 
that they wandered about freely in considerable bands, and 
walked through large towns stark naked, — " men, women, 
and girls looking at them," says Bernier, " without any 
more emotion than may be created when a hermit passes 
through our streets." 

In the course of time a Christian power from beyond 
the seas supplanted the Muhammadan overlords of India, 
yet the sadhu still held his own under the new and un- 
sympathetic regime. 

That sagacious, intelligent, and quaintly, perhaps 
unctuously, pious Christian, James Forbes, who spent 
seventeen years in Western India — from a.d. 1766 to 
1783 — ^in the Honourable East India Company's service, 

iBernier's Travels (a.d. 1656-68), pp. 316, 317 (Archibald Constable 
& Co.). 

G 97 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and having attained the rank of " senior merchant " in 
the employment of that famous corporation, retired at 
the early age of thirty -three years with a disordered 
liver and an ample fortune, did not fail to observe, 
during his exile in the East, the sadhus and faquirs of 
his da v. 

From his valuable Oriental Memoirs, published in 1813, 
we learn that in the latter portion of the eighteenth 
century the wandering sadhus were in great force through- 
out the western country. " These gymnosophists," he says, 
" often unite in large armed bodies and perform pilgrim- 
ages to the sacred rivers and celebrated temples ; but they 
are more Hke an army marching through a province than 
an assembly of saints in procession to a temple, and often 
lay the country through which they pass under contribu- 
tion " (vol. i. p. 68). 

Our author was also aware that in their pererrations 
these peripatetics went " from the confines of Russia to 
Cape Comorin and from the borders of China to Malabarhill 
on the island of Bombay " (i. 286), that they had many 
marvels to relate of the men and places they had seen, 
and were especially lavish in their praise of beautiful 
Kashmir {ii. 459). Mr. Forbes found these travelled 
ascetics more liberal-minded than the stav-at-home 
Hindus, and confesses that he " spent many a pleasant 
and improving hour with religious mendicants both Hindus 
and Mohammedans " (ii. 461). 

One of these men, a venerable Brahman, informed 
Mr. Forbes " that he had lived under different govern- 
ments and travelled in many countiies, but had never 
witnessed a general diffusion of happiness equal to that 
of the natives under the mild and equitable administra- 
tion of Mr. Hastings, at that time Governor-General of 
Bengal." 

" I cannot," adds Mr. Forbes, " forget the words of this 
respectable pilgrim ; we were near a banian tree in the 
durbar court when he thus concluded his discourse : ' As 
the burr tree, one of the noblest productions in nature, 
by extending its branches for the comfort and refreshment 
of all who seek its shelter, is emblematical of the deity, 

98 



SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

so do the virtues of the governor resemble the burr tree ; 
he extends his providence to the remotest districts, and 
stretches out his arms, far and wide, to afford protection 
and happiness to his people. Such, sahib, is Mr. Hastings ! ' " 
(vol. ii. 462). 

According to our author, it would seem that the roving 
propensities of the sadhus, however beneficial to themselves 
intellectually, were not conducive to right living, for many 
of them led a by no means chaste hfe, being veritable 
terrors to husbands wherever they went (ii. 234), and, 
though they had professedly renounced the world and its 
vanities, the wandering religious mendicants often contrived ^ 
to the great annoyance of the officials, Mr. Forbes included, 
to carry on, for their own profit, no Httle illicit trading in 
valuable objects (ii. 214, 215). 

We also learn from Mr. Forbes that " many yogees and 
similar professors " subjected themselves to cruel penances 
and mortifications. " Some of them," he tells us, " enter 
into a solemn vow to continue for life in one unvaried 
posture ; others undertake to carry a cumbrous load or 
drag a heavy chain ; some crawl on their hands and knees 
for years around an extensive empire ; and others roll their 
bodies on the earth from the shores of the Indus to the 
banks of the Ganges, and in that humihating posture 
collect money to enable them either to build a temple, to 
dig a well, or to atone for some particular sin. Some 
swing during their whole life, in this torrid clime, before 
a slow fire ; others suspend themselves, with their heads 
downwards, for a certain time over the fiercest flames " 
(vol. i. p. 69). 

In his travels Mr. Forbes came across the sadhu who 
carries his useless arms above his head, and, reduced to 
utter helplessness by his voluntary asceticism, is fed by 
pious Hindu women even of good position. He also saw 
the men who swing round a lofty pole suspended from a 
cross-beam by means of iron hooks fixed in the muscles 
of the back. 

A far rarer and more curious form of austerity is thus 
described : " I saw another of these devotees, who was one 
of the phalhc worshippers of Seeva, and who, not content 

99 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

with wearing or adorning the symbol of that deity, had 
made a vow to fix every year a large iron ring into the most 
tender part of his body, and thereto to suspend a heavy 
chain, many yards long, to drag on the ground. I saw 
this extraordinary saint in the seventh year of his penance, 
when he had just put in the seventh ring ; the wound was 
then so recent and so painful that he was obhged to carry 
the chain upon his shoulder, until the orifice became more 
callous " (vol. i. p. 70). 

Mr. Forbes, intelhgent observer and inquirer that he 
was, ascertained that the Hindu devotees were recruited 
from all classes of the community " except the caste of 
Chandala." He did not fail to realise that a high standard 
of abnegation and self-repression was theoretically demanded 
of the professed ascetics, and he was prepared to admit 
that, though the majority of the sadhus fell far short of the 
requirements of the rules of their sects, there were at least 
some enthusiasts who in solitude and meditation passed 
blameless lives and were credited with the possession of 
miraculous powers. 

About a hundred years ago, the well-known Christian 
missionary Ward, visiting Saugor Island at the head of 
the Bay of Bengal, came across certain Hindu ascetics in 
the extensive, dreary, and tiger - haunted jungle which 
covered that place. Two of these were Bairagis from the 
" Upper Provinces," who lived in the wilderness in separate 
log huts. When Ward saw them their customary fire was 
burning on a sandy ridge, and before it, seated on a deer 
skin, was one of the ascetics, all but quite naked, preparing 
some ganjah, which he presently smoked in his chillum. 
The Christian missionary entered into conversation with 
the hermit, and learned from him that he had adopted a 
life of abstraction and isolation from the worJd neither to 
expiate any sin nor to secure any reward. He averred 
that he had no desires and no hopes, but that being re- 
moved from the agitations of the worldly life he was full 
of tranquil joy. 

Near a neighbouring temple Mr. Ward discovered two 
other almost naked ascetics covered with ashes, each one 
having his long matted hair tied in a knot upon the top 

100 



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SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

of his head. One of these sadkus, quite a young man, was 
holding up one of his arms ; as, indeed, he had been doing 
for no less than three years. " The nails of his hand," 
says Ward, " were grown long like the claws of a bird of 
prey." Inquiry elicited from the devotee the statement 
that he was indifferent to future rewards, and that the 
whole of his time was spent in a succession of religious 
ceremonies and in repetition of the name of God. He had 
to bathe at least once a day, and a single meal at midday 
was all that he might partake of. The conspicuous fresh 
footprints of a tiger becoming the subject of remark, the 
sadhu mentioned, without displaying the sUghtest emotion, 
that within the preceding three months six persons had been 
carried off by tigers, before his eyes as it were, adding, with 
apparent indifference, that he would himself probably suffer 
the same fate. 

The other ascetic by the lonely temple in the jungle, 
who it appears held little if any communication with his 
neighbours, evinced no desire for intercourse with the 
inquisitive strangers, but remained absorbed in his own 
devotions. A sohtary of this type is depicted in Fig. 7. 
Referring to the physical state of these ascetics, the Christian 
missionary remarked, " It appears almost impossible for 
human beings to manifest a greater disregard of the body " 
than was shown by these men ; and we may add that, 
whether indicative of wisdom or folly, their painful austerities 
in a remote fever -and -tiger -haunted swampy jungle were 
plainly above any suspicion of imposture. 

That remarkably well-informed and agreeable writer 
about the India of the early decades of the last century, 
Colonel Sleeman, who in his rambles met a great many sadhus 
of various sects, formed a correct appreciation of their 
position in the Hindu social system, ^nd was fair-minded 
enough to recognise their good qualities as well as the service 
they could at that time render to the British Government 
by carrying a good report of it all over the country in their 
extensive wanderings through the remotest districts of the 
independent native States. At the same time, Colonel 
Sleeman did not overlook the curious fact that the very 
excellence of the British organisation, under which the 

lOI 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

soldiers' work was being efl&ciently carried out by one-tenth 
of the number of men formerly employed by the rival native 
rulers, was the cause of swelling very considerably the ranks 
of the religious mendicants. 

Colonel Sleeman records from personal knowledge some 
very interesting incidents connected with faquirs and sadhus, 
which, however, need not be reproduced here ; ^ but one 
peculiar feature of sadhuism of which he affords us a glimpse 
is too instructive to be overlooked. 

" The Mahadeo sandstone hills," says Colonel Sleeman, 
" which in the Sathpore range overlook the Nerbudda to 
the south, rise to between four and five thousand feet above 
the level of the sea ; and in one of the highest parts a fair 
was formerly, and is perhaps still, held for the enjoyment 
of those who assemble to witness the self-devotion of a 
few young men, who offer themselves as a sacrifice to 
fulfil the vows of their mothers ! When a woman is with- 
out children she makes votive ofierings to all the gods who 
can, she thinks, assist her, and promises of still greater in 
case they should grant what she wants. Smaller promises 
being found of no avail, she at last promises her first-born, 
if a male, to the god of destruction, Mahadeo. If she gets 
a son, she conceals from him her vows till he has attained 
the age of puberty ; she then communicates it to him, and 
enjoins him to fulfil it. He beUeves it to be his paramount 
duty to obey his mother's call, and from that moment he 
considers himself as devoted to the god. Without breathing 
to any living soul a syllable of what she has told him, he 
puts on the habit of a pilgrim or religious mendicant, visits 
all the celebrated temples dedicated to this god in different 
parts of India, and at the annual fair on the Mahadeo hills 
throws himself from a perpendicular height of four or five 
hundred feet, and is dashed to pieces upon the rocks below ! 
If the youth does not feel himself quite prepared for the 
sacrifice on the first visit, he spends another year in pil- 
grimage, and returns to fulfil his mother's vow at the 
next fair. Some have, I believe, been known to postpone 
the sacrifice to a third fair ; but the interval is always 

^ The reader may consult Colonel Sleeman's Eambles and Recollections, 
vol. i. chap, xiii., vol. ii. chap. xxvi. 

102 



SADHUS DESCRIBED BY EUROPEAN VISITORS 

spent in painful pilgrimages to the celebrated temples of 
the god." 1 

Bishop Reginald Heber, who made an extensive tour in 
India during 1824-26, records his surprise at finding that 
the Hindu devotees were not so common as before his 
coming to India he had expected to find them (vol. i. 
p. 111). Of those the Bishop did actually come across he 
has little if anything to say, and his narrative is singularly 
deficient in just appreciation or reasonable comprehen- 
sion of sadhuism. From the missionary point of view he 
certainly recognised the importance of the Hindu ascetics 
as hindrances to the conversion of the jjeople to Christianity, 
and in this connection refers to one nearly naked man, 
" walking with three or four others, who suddenly knelt 
down one after the other, and, catching hold of his foot, 
kissed it repeatedly." 

Amongst other cases which came under his own observa- 
tion, the Bishop mentions a man who had vowed to use 
only one leg, the other being shrunken from disuse ; a 
devotee who held his hands above his head till he had lost 
the power of bringing them down again (vol. i. 110, 111) ; 
and a hermit " sitting naked with his hands joined and his 
eyes half shut " (i. 266). 

The Bishop was told about two yogis who lived apart, 
yet quite safely, in a tiger-haunted jungle, and was assured 
that one of these men was visited every night by a formidable 
tiger, who came to lick the ascetic's hands and be fondled 
by him (vol. ii. 265-68) ; but the story did not make much 
impression on the prelate. 

Heber was also shown, but evinced no great interest in, 
" a small college ... of religious mendicants or viragies " 
(ii. 373). Once he came across " a holy yogi, his naked 
and emaciated body covered over with white powder, and 
an iron implement, like a flesh -hoOk, in his hand, which 
is frequently carried by devotees in this part of India 
(Baroda) " (vol. iii. p. 55). 



^ Colonel Sleeman's Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official y 
vol. i. chap. XV. The practice referred to has, of course, died out or been 
suppressed. 

103 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

The foregoing brief references to the recorded experiences 
and impressions of travellers and others show that the 
sadhu, who is at the present time too prominent a feature 
in the Indian world to escape attention, has also occupied 
an honoured place in his native land through all the many 
and often painful vicissitudes of fortune which it has ex- 
perienced. 

Yet the sadhu of to-day is not necessarily the sadJm of 
former times. It is true that nakedness, austerities, and 
roving habits have been persistent outward characteristics 
of the Indian sadhu through at least five - and - twenty 
centuries ; but it has to be noted that these peculiarities 
have, by reason of their very obviousness, helped to conceal 
from the casual observer the fact, which will be established 
in the next chapter, that the religious ideas of which sadhuism 
is the outward expression have, in the progress of time, been 
undergoing many important changes. 



104 



CHAPTEK VII 

A VIEW OF THE SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN 
HINDUISM AND OF THE ORIGIN OF THE MORE 
IMPORTANT HINDU SECTS, IN RELATION TO THE 
DEVELOPMENT OF SADHUISM IN INDIA 



Section I. — Some fundamental Doctrines of Hindu Theology — Mya — 
Pantheism — Metempsychosis — Karma. 



T is necessary for a full cora- 
prehension of sadhuism 
that the student should 
approach the subject with 
some knowledge of the 
fundamental doctrines 
evolved in India by the 
early Brahmanical theo- 
logians ; and of such doc- 
trines we are happily not 
left in ignorance. 

In presence of the mys- 
terious worldngs of the 
phenomenal world and the incomprehensible tragedies of life 
around them, the bewildered Hindu tMnkers, being human 
and intellectual, were driven perforce to conceive some 
plausible explanation of the mighty riddle of existence — 
of being, suffering, decay, and dissolution — which confronted 
them in its appalling and majestic silence. To solve their 
profound difficulties for themselves, they naturally fell back 
upon their imaginations, and, thus far, did not differ much, 
except in the nature of their fancies, from their brethren 

105 




[E MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

of otlier creeds.^ But it has to be noted that in their un- 
bounded confidence in their own dream-world the Hindu 
sages pronounced the senses to be the misleading cause of 
man's ignorance, and arrived at the conclusion that the 
world, as revealed by the senses, was all pure deception, 
illusion (Mya), and that consequently the real world, true 
knowledge, could only be reached by neglecting, suppressing, 
and, as it were, getting behind the senses. To this verdict 
of Hindu theological philosophy may be traced the pre- 
ponderance of introspective contemplation, which we find 
favoured by the various schemes of religious life adopted by 
Hindu sectaries. Subtle pliilosophical speculations about 
the origin and destiny of the world, about spirit and matter, 
could hardly coexist with the joyous physiolatry of their 
earlier cult, and this consequently became gradually con- 
verted into an abstract nebulous pantheism, which fascinated 
the Hindu mind, and has coloured all its subsequent ideas 
— so much so, that even the very recent and delicate 
scientific researches on what he calls the " response of 
matter," carried out by a clever and well-known Bengali 
Professor of Science, Dr. J. C. Bose, have very appropriately 
led him to sav — 

" It was when I came upon the mute witness of these 
self-made records, and perceived in them one phase of a 
pervading unity that bears within it all things ; the mote 
that quivers in ripples of light, the teeming life upon our 
earth, and the radiant suns that shine above us, — it was 
then that I understood for the first time a little of that 
message proclaimed by my ancestors on the banks of the 
Ganges thirty centuries ago : ' They who see but one 
in all the changing manifoldness of this universe, unto 
them belongs Eternal Truth, unto none else, unto none 
else ! ' " 

F^|- This pantheism, recognising only one indefinite substance 
or Being from which everything came and into which every- 

^ Guessing at the origin and constitution of the material universe in its 
wonderfully various aspects is a process by no means confined to the theo- 
logians and philosophers, but may be traced, with important differences 
no doubt, in the host of theories and hypotheses, most of them long since 
discredited, which science has presented to the world. 

1 06 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

thing would return, has, naturally, not found favour with 
Christians. Professor Caird characterises it as "a gulf 
in which all difference was lost," adding that " the ethics 
which could spring from such a faith was only the negative 
ethics of an asceticism which renounced the world and with- 
drew from it as an empty illusion." ^ 

Long centuries prior to the Christian era two important 
tenets had taken firm root in India, and they are 
flourishing there to this day. One of these is behef in 
metempsychosis {samsdra), the other what is known as 
karma. According to the former, death does not release 
the soul permanently from its connection with matter, 
for it may have to return again and again, even an endless 
succession of times, animating other bodies, human, bestial, 
and even vegetal ; ^ while, according to the doctrine of 
karma (the Sanskrit word for action), it is upon a man's 
actions in this life that will depend the condition or state 
in which the soul will be reincarnated. After the death 
of an individual his soul may pass for a time into a place 
of enjoyment — a heaven of bUss, in fact ; but, unless its 
purification has been complete, it will in the fulness of time 
be inevitably reincarnated for a new mundane existence. 
In a word, the present state is the result of past actions, 
and the future depends upon the present. Now, the 
ultimate hope of the Hindu should be so to live that his 

^ Caird's Evolution of Religion, vol. i. p. 263. In connection with this 
subject, the following will not be without interest : — " As we read in the 
Katha Upanishad, ' The self -existent pierced the openings (of the senses) 
so that they turn forward ; therefore man looks forward, not backward, into 
himself. Some wise man, however, with his eyes closed and wishing for 
immortahty, saw the Self behind,' . . . ' The wise, when he knows that 
that by which he perceives all objects in sleep and in waking is the great 
omnipresent Self, grieves no more.' ' As the sun, the eye of the whole 
world, is not contaminated by the external impiu-ities seen by the eyes, 
thus the one Self within all things is never contaminated by the misery of 
the world, being himself without.' ' There is one eternal thinker, thinking 
non-eternal thoughts, who, though one, fulfils the desires of many. The 
wise who perceive him within their Self, to them belongs eternal peace, not 
to others.' " — Caird's Evolution of Religion^ vol. i. p. 355. 

^ The doctrine of the transmigration of souls was held by the ancient 
Egypti^iis. It found a footing in Greece and amongst the Jews — the 
Kabbalists. The Manichseans recognised it, and some heretical Muslim 
sects also adopted it. 

107 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

soul may be eventually freed from the necessity of being 
reincarnated, and may in the end be reunited to the Infinite 
Spirit from which it sprang. As, however, that goal 
is very remote, the Hindu not uncommonly limits his 
desires and his efforts to the attainment of a " good 
time " now, and in his next appearance upon this earthly 
stage. 



1 08 



CHAPTER Y II— continued 



Sectio]!? II. — Modern Hinduism — Principal Divisions — The Sivite Reformer, 
Sankara Acharya — His Crusade against Buddhism — Sakti Worship — 
Mahmoud of Guzni's successful Invasion of India — Islam a stimulating 
Factor in the Origination of new and rival Siva and Vishnu Sects — 
The Piu-anas — Ramanuja's Campaign against Sivaism — Basava and his 
Doctrines — Krishna Worship preached by Madhavacharya — His Theo- 
logical Views — Ramanand preaches at Benares the Worship of Rama 
and Sita — Tendency towards Anthropomorphism in the later Sects. 




e present time Hinduism proper — 
which I mean the practical rehgion 
the Hindu people, not the specula- 
tive opinions of Hindu philosophers — 
s represented by a bewildering variety 
of sects, of which the more im- 
portant ones at least may be 
classified with tolerable accuracy 
under the following main 
groups : — 

1. Saivas, worshippers of the 
god Siva. 

2, Saktas, worshippers of the female energy and especi- 
ally of the goddesses Devi, Durga, and Kali, all consorts 
of Siva. 

3. Vaishnavas, worshippers of the god Vishnu. 

(a) In his incarnation as Rama Chandra with his 

wife Sita. 

(b) As Krishna with his wives Lakshmi and Rukmani 

and his favourite mistress Radha.^ 

^ It was a pecuUarity of the Egyptians, that, like the present Hindus, 
they were divided as it were into sects, each of which adopted some one 
deity out of the Pantheon for the exclusive object of worship, paying no 

109 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Towards the close of the eighth or the beginning of the 
ninth century a.d. Siva worship attained a prominent position 
and considerable success, mostly through the exertions of an 
unmarried Brahman named Sankara Acharya, who carried 
on a vigorous crusade against Buddhism. It would seem 
that he countenanced every form of Hinduism, but, " what- 
ever Sankara's own faith may have been, his followers are 
practically Sivites." ^ 

Of the reUgious peculiarities of this transition period 
we have fortunately many interesting particulars in a 
work entitled Sankara Vijaya, by one Ananda Giri, a 
reputed disciple of Sankara himself. The broad divisions 
of Saivas, Saktas, and Vaishnavas can all be recognised 
as existing at that time, but the sects described by Ananda 
Giri can hardly, if at all, be identified with those of the 
present day ; and it is noteworthy that in no portion 
of the Sankara Vijaya " is any allusion made to the separate 
worship of Krishna, either in his own person or that of the 
infantine forms in which he is now so eminently vener- 
ated in many parts of India, nor are the names of Rama 
and Sita, of Lakshmana or Hanuman, once particu- 
larised as enjoying any portion of distinct and specific 
adoration." ^ 

Siva, regarded by his special followers as the Supreme 
Being, commands their adoration in many different and 
even seemingly contradictory characters ; but he is usually 
worshipped under the impersonal symbol of the phallus or 
lingam, an undoubtedly very ancient Oriental cult, though 
not confined exclusively to the East. The spiritualisation, 
exaltation, and even deification, of natural desire, of the 
sexual instinct in fact, has been in the East from the earliest 
times an object of certain sect founders, impressed, no 
doubt, and fascinated by the mystery of generation. And 
so it has come about that this mystery, which the West 

regard to all the rest. As in modern Hinduism Vishnu and Siva have 
engrossed the religion of the country, so in Egypt of the first Christian 
century Anubis and Cnuph had become the sole objects of Egyptian 
veneration, — King's The Gnostics and their Remains, pp. 101, 102. 

^ Hindu Castes and Sects, by Dr. J. M. Bhattacharjee, p. 375. 

^ Sketch of the ReUgious Sects of the Hindus, by Professor H. H. Wilson, 
pp. 11, 12. 

IIO 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

has regarded with the greatest suspicion and dread, has been 
invested by the subtle mysticism of the Orient with the 
sanctifying garment of rehgion. 

In connection with the cult and practices of the 
Sankarite ascetic sects, it should be borne in mind that 
although Siva is regarded by the Hindus as the Destroyer, 
yet throughout India he is worshipped under the symbol 
of the lingam, because in the endless round of births and 
deaths to which, according to the doctrine of metempsy- 
chosis, all sentient beings are subject, it is easy for the 
mystic to see in destruction only the precursor of renewed 
existence.^ 



I. 

I am the god of the sensuous fire 

That moulds all nature in forms divine ; 

The symbols of death and of man's desire, 
The springs of change in the world are mine ; 

The organs of birth and the circlet of bones. 

And the light loves carved on the temple stones. 

IL 

I am the lord of delights and pain. 

Of the pest that killeth, of fruitful joys ; 

I rule the currents of heart and vein ; 
A touch gives passion, a look destroys ; 

In the heat and cold of my lightest breath 

Is the might incarnate of Lust and Death. 



V. 

And the strong swift river my shrine below. 

It runs, Uke man, its unending com-se. 
To the boundless sea from eternal snow ; 

Mine is the Fountain, and mine the Force 
That spurs all nature to ceaseless strife ; 
And my image is Death at the gates of Life. 

(From Sir Alfred LyaU's " Siva.") 

Under the influence of the Hindu admiration of the 
ascetic life, Siva, the Great God (Maha-dev), stands forth 
in the later Hinduism of the Puranas as the great ascetic 
(Mahatapah, Mahayogi), a fact of especial significance in 

^ For the modern lingam worship the principal authorities are the 
Skanda, Siva, Brahmanda, and Linga Puranas. 

Ill 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

connection with the subject of the present work. " In 
this character he appears quite naked (digamhara), with 
only one face like an ordinary human being, with ash- 
besmeared body and matted hair (whence his name 
Dhurjati), sitting in profound meditation under a banian 
tree, and often, like the contemplative Buddha, under a 
canopy formed by a serpent's head. There he is supposed 
to remain passionless, motionless, immovable as the trunk 
of a tree, perhaps rooted to the same spot for millions of 
years." ^ 

With Siva are also commonly associated his consorts 
and his bull Nandi. 

Siva, as Professor Wilson points out, is stated to have 
" appeared in the beginning of the Kali age as sweta for 
the purpose of benefiting the Brahmans. He resided on 
the Himalaya mountains and taught the yoga^ Now the 
word sweta means white, and all images of Siva, as well 
as pictorial representations or living presentments of the 
god, are always coloured white. 

The legend referred to will account for the fact that 
Siva is especially the god of the Brahmans. 

Sankara Acharya's crusade against Buddhism originated 
in Southern India, but Sankara himself preached his doctrines 
far and wide, travelling from Malabar, where he was born, 
"^ to the valley of Kashmir in the Himalayas, where he died 

at the early age of thirty-two. He has been raised by 
his followers to the dignity of an incarnation of Siva. " His 
sanctity was in such repute that he was held to have 
worked several miracles — amongst others, transferring 
his own soul for a time into the dead body of a King 
Amru, that he might become the husband of the king's 
widow for a brief period, and so learn by experience how 
to argue on amatory subjects with the wife of a Brahman 
named Mandana, who was the only person he had never 
conquered in argument. This is described in a poem 
called Amaru-Sataka, to which a mystical interpretation is 
given. ^ 

^ Brahmanism and Hinduism, by Professor Sir Monier Williams, p. 83 
(third edition). 
- Ihid. p. 56. 

112 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

Sankara's aim in life seems to have been to destroy 
Buddhism in India and to revive and establish an old 
Brahmanic cult. His chief doctrine was the essential unity 
of the Divine Spirit and the human soul. He held, indeed, 
that ail nature is but a manifestation of the Universal Soul, 
takes its origin from that soul, and is eventually absorbed 
therein. In order to impress this doctrine upon his mind, 
" the Sivite is required by his religion to assert every 
now and then that he is Siva " ; ^ Sivoham — I am 
Siva. 

For the attainment of final emancipation, muJcti, 
Sankara held that realised knowledge of the oneness of 
the Atman, or self, with the Absolute, or Brahman, was 
essential. 

The nature of Hindu views on this subject may be 
somewhat elucidated by the following dialogue from the 
Nadir unnikat^ a book in Persian, written in the middle of 
the seventeenth century, explanatory of the tenets of the 
sect known as the Baha Lalis : — 

" Are the soul, life, and body merely shadows ? — The 
soul is of the same nature as God, and one of the many 
properties of universal life — like the sea, and a drop 
of water ; when the latter joins the former, it also is 
sea. 

" How do the Paramatma (supreme soul) and Jivatraa 
(living soul) differ ? — They do not differ, and pleasure and 
pain ascribable to the latter arises from its imprison- 
ment in the body — the water of the Ganges is the same 
whether it run in the river's bed or be shut up in a 
decanter. 

" What difference should that occasion ? — Great ; a drop 
of wine added to the water in the decanter will impart its 
flavour to the whole, but it would be lost in the river. The 
Paramatma, therefore, is beyond accident, but the Jivatma 
is affiicted by sense and passion. Water cast loosely on a 
fire will extinguish the fire ; put that water over the fire in a 
boiler, and the fire will evaporise the water. So the body 
being the confining cauldron, and passion the fire, the soul, 
which is compared to the water, is dispersed abroad. 

1 Hindu Castes and Sects, by J. N. Bhattacharjee, M.A., D.L., p. 371. 
H 113 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

The one great supreme soul is incapable of these properties, 
and happiness is therefore only obtained in reunion with it, 
when the dispersed and individualised portions combine 
again with it, as the drops of water with the parent stream ; 
hence, although God needs not the service of His slave, 
yet the slave should remember that he is separated from 
God by the bod}^ alone, and may exclaim perpetually, Blessed 
be the moment when I shall lift the veil from ofi that 
face. The veil of the face of my beloved is the dust of my 
body. 

" What are the feelings of the perfect faquir ? — They 
have not been, they are not to be, described ; as it is said, 
a person asked me. What are the sensations of a lover ? I 
replied, When you are a lover you v/ill know." ^ 

Sankara founded at least four important monasteries,^ 
and established various orders of wandering friars, to be 
referred to later on ; but, unlike Buddha, he did not admit 
nuns to his orders. 

Sakti worship, that is, the worship of the female energy 
in nature, having the yoni and yantra for its accepted 
symbols, is not perhaps as old in India as the phallic cult 
of Siva ; but we know it was flourishing there in the eighth 
and ninth centuries a.d., and has a verv considerable follow- 
ing at the present time. The written authorities upon 
which this cult is based are certain Puranas — for example, 
the Brahma Vaivartha, Skanda, and Kalika ; but the most 
important Scriptures of the Saktas are the Tantras, which 
they regard as a fifth Veda. 

As worship of the goddesses Devi, Durga, and Kali, the 
Sakti cult prevails, sometimes combined with the grossest 
immoralities, mostly in the eastern portions of India, — 
Behar, Bengal, and Assam, — where emotionalism and 
mysticism are very prominent features of the national 
character ; the instance under consideration being a good 
example of the fact that, where these mental quahties are 
found in excess, they usually coexist with a deficiency of 
self-control which may lead to sexual depravity. However, 

1 Wilson, Religious Sects of the Hindus, pp. 225, 226. 
- At Sringiri in Mysore, Badrinatli in the Himalayas, Dwarka in Katti- 
awar, and Jagganath in Orissa. 

114 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

as the Sakti cult naturally produces no ascetics, it is outside 
the scope of this book. 

Since as far back as 636 a.d. successive waves of 
Mussulman invasion had been beating with more or less 
effect against the western boundaries of India. In a.d. 
1024 Mahmoud, the Muhammadan ruler of Ghazni, after 
eleven successful invasions of India as far as Gwalior and 
Kanauj, returned once more, attracted this time by an 
avaricious desire to secure the enormous wealth of the 
famous temple of Somnath in Guzerat. Mahmoud had 
already destroyed the temples of Thaneswar and Nag- 
arkote, but Somnath, on account of the fame of its sanctity 
and riches, was a prize which excited his fanaticism as 
well as his cupidity. Situated by the Arabian Sea, close 
to the sacred land where Krishna ruled and died, the 
temple of Somnath appealed to the most cherished 
reUgious feelings of the Hindus ; but, though desper- 
ately defended, it fell into the hands of the invader, 
who contemptuously shattered in pieces the object of 
worship there — a gigantic lingam — and carried off in 
triumph the hoarded treasures of centuries of Hindu 
piety. 

" The linga worship of Siva, we know," says Professor 
Wilson, " was everywhere the predominant form of the 
Hindu faith when the Mohammedans first invaded India," ^ 
and anyone at all acquainted with the extensive and rest- 
less rovings of the Indian sadhus can easily imagine how 
quickly the news of that terrible and striking catastrophe, 
the destruction of Somnath, must have been carried 
throughout the length and breadth of India by the 
wandering Sivite friars and other peregrinating ascetics 
of the day. The news as it spe(J through the land 
must have struck dismay everywhere, and awakened 
painful doubts in milhons of hearts, as when the 
sack of the Eternal City by Alaric and his Goths in 
the fifth century gave a shock to Roman pride and 
the pagan cults of the empire from which they never 
recovered. 

An ominous storm-cloud was gathering over Hindu 
^ Preface to his translation of Malati and Madhava. 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

India, throwing a dark shadow of distrust over old 
cherished behefs. It was indeed just one of those critical 
periods in the history of a nation when universal search- 
ings of hearts give rise to revisions of long-established 
faiths and to the formulation of new rehgious hopes and 
aspirations. In the gloom of those troublous days the 
Vishnu Puranas, with their extravagant legends for the 
glorification of their chosen divinity, seem to have been 
compiled, somewhere about the middle of the eleventh 
century, from old traditions, coeval, no doubt, with Sivaism 
and Buddhism. 

During the hundred years which followed the com- 
pilation of these Puranas the Muhammadan power was 
being consolidated in the Punjab, and a feehng of unrest at 
the imminent peril which threatened Hinduism must have 
been experienced tliroughout the remainder of India. Such 
political conditions are always favourable to the advent of 
prophets, reformers, and new religious systems. In due 
time, therefore, appeared a rival to Sivaism in the form of a 
Vishnu cultus. 

Sivaism, as already stated, had received a great im- 
petus from the teaching and preaching of Sankara Acharya, 
but had no doubt been discredited in men's minds by 
recent events. 

The prophet of the new Vaishnava (Vishnuvite) 
religion was Ramanuja, a Brahman of Southern India, who 
about 1150 A.D. commenced his campaign against Sivaism, 
teaching a monotheism hardly distinguishable from pan- 
theism. Instead of the much venerated lingam, symbol of 
Mahadev, he presented to the Hindu world, as objects of 
special adoration, Vishnu,^ Krishna, and Rama ; also their 
respective wives, Lakshmi, Rukmini, and Sita. Contrary to 
the views of Sankara, he taught that the human soul was 
distinct from the Supreme Spirit, and retained its identity 
and separate consciousness even when absorbed in the 

^ The god Vishnu, according to the Puranas, has appeared on the earth 
in nine different incarnations, one of these being Rama Chandra, and he is 
to appear once more as Kalki " at the end of the present age of sin for 
rescuing the land of the Aryas from their oppressors." — Bhattacharjee's 
Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 415. 

Ii6 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

Supreme Being. " As a matter of fact, he believed in three 
distinct principles, namely — 

1. The Supreme Spirit, * Para-brahma or Iswara.' 

2. The separate spirits of men, ' Chit.' 

3. Non-spirit, ' Achit.' " i 

And it may be added that he recognised the merit of good 
works for the attainment of final exemption from further 
transmigrations . 

Ramanuja's conflict with the worshippers of Siva was 
carried on with a great deal of vehemence, and he was him- 
self obliged to seek refuge from his enemies in the court 
of the Jaina King of Karnata. Two distinct sects claiming 
to be his spiritual descendants, styling themselves Vada- 
galais and Ten-galais respectively, are to be found at present 
in Southern India. Ramanuja's followers affirm that their 
prophet was an incarnation of the divine serpent Sesha. 

Like other Indian reformers or heresiarchs, Ramanuja 
established ascetic orders in connection with his sect 
known as the Sri Vaishnavas, and founded a large number 
of monasteries. 

Lingam worship, as organised and extended by Sankara 
and his immediate followers, was not, however, to be yet 
ousted by its rival. Within a century of the promulga- 
tion by Ramanuja of his Vishnu cultus, a new movement 
in favour of Sivaism was set up by Basava in the southern 
Mahratta country. Though a Brahman by birth, Basava 
" denied the superiority of the Brahmans, and tried his best 
to aboHsh the distinction of caste." ^ He also opposed 
many ancient orthodox practices — cremation, for example — 
and even questioned the inspiration of the Vedas. 

According to his followers, Basava was an incarnation 
not of Siva, but of Siva's bull Nandi, who was sent down 
especially to revive the Sivite cultus.^ To Basava are 
attributed many remarkable miracles. After his work on 
earth was accomplished he disappeared into the Sangames- 
wara lingam, and thus returned to the heaven whence he 
came. 

^ Hindu Castes and Sects, by Dr. J. N. Bhattacharjee, p. 435. 

2 Ibid. p. 396. 

2 Professor H. H. Wilson's Religious Sects of the Hindus, p. 143. 

117 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Basava established an ascetic mendicant order in con- 
nection with his sect, named Jangamas or Lingaits because 
they wear a lingam enclosed in a metal casket suspended 
from the neck by a cord. The order referred to is well 
known in Southern India, but representatives of it are rarely 
met with in the country north of the Vindhyahs, although 
some are established at Benares. 

But the poUtical clouds continued to gather overhead, 
the danger to Hinduism still increased. Islam was steadily 
triumphing. What better course was open to the Hindus 
than to forget their sectarian differences and unite together 
in the worship of the divine Kjishna, the central figure of 
that great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, ^ and the very 
god Vishnu ^ himself, in whom all Hindus could find their 
ideals satisfied. And so in the thirteenth century Mad- 
havacharya, a Kanarese Brahman, born in a.d. 1199, 
vigorously preached the special worship of Krishna, but, 
unhke Ramanuja, without displaying any hostility what- 
ever to Sivaism, his object being to effect a union of Sivites 
and Vishnuvites under a new rehgious banner. 

To this end the images of Siva, Durga,^ and Ganesh * 
are worshipped along with those of Vishnu in the temples 
of the sect established by Madhavacharya. 

As in the present time the Krishna cult seems to be 
in especial favour amongst the Indian people, and as its 
spread in certain forms must affect the practice of aus- 
terities, it seems desirable to consider the popular beliefs 
respecting this god. 

In the Mahabharata he is a warrior king, wise, subtle, 
and full of guile. He is also the Supreme Being, and 
unmistakably reveals himself as such. Some of the 
earlier Puranas represent him in the same light. But 

* An epitome of the Mahabharata forms a portion of my Great Indian 
Epics (George Bell & Sons). 

2 " Krishna is regarded by some as the eighth incarnation (of Vishnu), 
but according to the more orthodox view he was Vishnu himself, and wai 
not a mere incarnation." — Dr. Bhattacharjee's Hindu Castes and Sicts, 
p. 416. 

^ The wife of Siva. 

* The god of wisdom, son of Siva and Parvati, represented as a short 
corpulent man with four hands and the head of an elephant. 

Ii8 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

later and more favourite legends devoted especially to his 
youthful years dwell upon the dangers to which in infancy 
his life was exposed from the jealous fears of his royal uncle, 
expatiate upon his personal beauty, and revel in the sensuous 
details of his various amours with the gopis (milkmaids), 
amongst whom the most favoured was Radha, a married 
woman passionately devoted, body and soul, to her divine 
lover. Their loves, not unmixed with jealousies and tears, 
as sung by the poets of India, have met with ecstatic apprecia- 
tion, while an attempt has been made by the more sober- 
minded to cover their unblushing carnahty under a diaphanous 
veil of devotional mysticism.^ Whither all this dallying 
with warm voluptuous passions and sensuous images would 
inevitably lead the frailer devotees does not need to be 
explained. 

When the Krishna cult originated is very doubtful. 
Its roots may be very ancient, but there can be no doubt 
that it was in a new form that it appeared in India in the 
thirteenth century. 

Madhavacharya, the prophet who preached Krishna, 
believed, like his predecessor Ramanuja, in the independent 
existence of the human soul, and denied the possibility of 
its absorption into the Universal Spirit either in this life 
or after death. He held that there is one Eternal Supreme 
Being, Vishnu, and that Siva, Brahma, and all the ocher 
gods are subject to decay and dissolution ; that there are 
two eternal principles, God and the Human Soul, or rather 
souls, the former independent, the latter dependent. " With 
regard to the visible world, he taught that its elements 
existed eternally in the Supreme Being, and were only created 
by Him in the sense of being shaped, ordered, and arranged 
by His power and will." ^ 

The sect established by Madhava has, like the rest, its 
own mendicant orders and its own monasteries. 

The success of Vaishnava doctrines in Southern India 
led to their promulgation in the Gangetic valley, princi- 

^ With this process we in the West are familiar in the very far-fetched 
interpretation which "has been put by Christian theologians upon the glow- 
ing sensuousness of the Song of Songs. 

^ Professor Sir Monier Williams, Brahmanism and Hinduism, p. 131. 

119 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

pally through the preaching and teaching of a Brahman 
named Ramanand, who lived at Benares in the thirteenth 
or fourteenth century. It is said that Ramanand, one of 
Ramanuja's successors, having travelled extensively over 
India, returned to one of the monasteries of his sect, when 
some priest or other raised the objection that in his 
wanderings he could not possibly have observed the rule 
of the Ramanuja sect, requiring meals to be strictly private. 
On these grounds Ramanand was required to eat apart 
from the rest of the brethren. In resentment he founded 
a new sect, and, to show his contempt for caste distinc- 
tions, freely admitted into it men of all castes, even 
the lowest ; and this was probably a prudent or even 
necessary concession to popular feeling, more than ever 
unwilling to accept the old yoke, since Islam was pre- 
pared to receive all into its communion on a footing of 
equality. 

Ramanand's followers were taught to pay especial 
reverence to Rama and his wife Sita ; for, mth political 
dangers looming on the horizon, what more natural than 
to turn one's thoughts to the faultless prince who, while 
an incarnation of deity, had been in his human character 
a wandering ascetic in the forests of Central India for no 
less than fourteen years, and withal a successful warrior, 
capable of avenging a wrong even when the evil-doer was 
the terrible ten-headed demon-king of the Rakshasas.^ 

Again, what more charming and more admirable char- 
acter could be found to arouse the love and homage of 
all good men than that ever-faithful and tender wife, the 
peerless Sita. 

The cult instituted by Ramanand was an example of 
the worship of God incarnated in human form, similar to 
that which we have in Christianity — a religion which had 
already become familiar to the Indian people ; for Roman 
CathoHc missionaries had long been established amongst 
them. 

If Sivaism was to be superseded by Vishnuism, surely 

^ The story of Rama is the subject of the famous Sanskrit epic, the 
Ramayana, of which I Lave given an epitome in my Great Indian Epics 
(George Bell & Sons). 

120 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

the object of adoration should be a god-man like Rama, 
a model son and an exemplary husband, but above all a 
redoubtable warrior and a leader of avenging hosts. 

There are both monks and nuns connected with the 
sect of the Ramanandis, who have flourishing monasteries 
throughout Northern India. 



121 



CHAPTER y II— continued 



Section III. — Modern Democratic Reformers — Kabir, his peculiar and 
important position as a Reformer — Vallabhacharya sets up the 
Worship of Krishna as Bala Gopala — Chaitanya the Mystic preaches 
the Worship of Krishna cum Radha — Baba Nanak and his Teaching — 
The Sikhs — Dadu and his Sect — Ram Charn and the Ram Sanehis 
founded by him — The Rajput Princess Mirabai a Devotee of Krishna — 
The Trend of Latter-day Hinduism — Brief Summary. 



P to this time all the heresiarchs 
— for such they really were — 
mentioned in this sketch, from 
Sankara Acharya to Rama- 
nand, were Brahmans and men 
of education. 

Although they belonged to 
the privileged caste of the here- 
ditary priesthood, democratic 
tendencies became more and 
more apparent in the sects 
which successively arose under 
their guidance, the latter of these 
exhibiting a very marked disre- 
gard for caste distinctions. At the same time, anthropo- 
morphic leanings are plainly manifest in the extensive 
and popular worsliip of the Kshatriya warriors Krishna 
and Rama. 

In Kabir we have a low-caste man unacquainted with 
Sanskrit literature, and a reformer of such a strikingly 
new type amongst Hindu religious leaders that he calls 
for more than a passing notice. This man, there is reason 

122 




SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

to believe, may be numbered amongst the principal 
disciples of Ramanand, thougb he was no slavish follower 
of the master. It is related that Ramanand lived at 
Benares in the strictest seclusion. He stayed all day in- 
doors, and only at about two o'clock in the morning went 
down to the Ganges to have his bath and perform his 
devotions. Kabir, the low -caste weaver, could never 
obtain access to the great teacher, because the master's 
followers and disciples drove him contemptuously away. 
He knew, however, that Ramanand went nightly to the 
sacred river for his bath, and so he used to lie in the path 
and watch him as he passed. One night Ramanand, on 
his way to the Ganges, stumbled against Kabir, and instead 
of asking who he was, or making any apology, merely said, 
as he passed along, " Goth ! Ram ko Ram bolo ! " (Rise up ! 
say Ram to Ram !). 

Kabir was delighted, and went about telling every- 
body he met that Ramanand had accepted him as his chela^ 
and had communicated the initiatory mantra to him. The 
disciples of the great teacher questioned him about this, 
and not mthout sundry reproaches. Ramanand denied 
all knowledge of the man. Kabir on his part maintained 
the truth of his statement, and desired to be confronted 
with his guru. He was conducted before Ramanand, 
and related what had occurred. The master was pleased, 
and said, " Yes, he is my chela ! What greater mantra 
is there than the name of God ? " This is one story, and, 
though not identical with the one given in the Dabistan, 
does not differ very materially from it. But, according 
to the Bhakta mala, Kabir' s mother was at her own request 
brought by her father to see Ramanand, who, without 
taking note of the fact that she was a widow, saluted her 
with a benediction, to the effect, that she might be 
favoured with a son. Of course the saint's words, once 
uttered, were irrevocable. The virgin widow in due 
time gave birth to a male cliild, and, overwhelmed 
with shame, secretly abandoned the infant, who was 
found by a weaver and his wife and reared as their own 
offspring. 

Judging from the works attributed to him and his 

123 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

immediate disciples, lie was a pronounced mystic,^ gifted 
by nature with a great power of emotional influence. But, 
mystic though he was, Kabir's worldly wisdom led him to 
advise his disciples to conciliate all men. 

" Shabse hiliye, sliabse miliye, 
Shabka lijiye nam ; 
Han-ji han-ji shabse kijiye, 
Wasa apna gam," 

which jingling couplet may be sufficiently rendered — 

" Mix with all, with all associate. 
Each man's name borrow free ; 
Let ' Yes, sir ! ' on your lips be ever, 
But bide 'neath your own roof-tree." 

Kabir, though a monotheist after the Indian fashion, 
did not deny the existence of the Hindu deities ; but he 
considered that their worship was not necessary, and he 
was clearly anti-idolatrous in his views. What was a 
new thing in Hinduism, Kabir insisted that purity of heart 
was all-important, and ceremonies or modes of worship of 
little accoimt. 

Thus said the teacher : "To Ali and Kama we owe 
our existence, and should therefore show similar tender- 
ness to all that live : of what avail is it to shave your 
head, prostrate yourself on the ground, or immerse your 
body in the stream ? Whilst you shed blood you call 
yourself pure and boast of virtues that you never display. 
Of what benefit is cleaning your mouth, counting your 
beads, performing ablutions, and bowing yourself in 
temples, when, whilst you mutter your prayers or journey 
to Mecca or Medina, deceitfulness is in your heart. The 
Hindu fasts every eleventh day, the Mussulman during 
the Ramazan. Who formed the remaining months and 
days that you should venerate but one ? If the Creator 
dwell in tabernacles, whose residence is the universe ? 
Who has beheld Rama seated amongst the images, or 
found him at the shrine to which the pilgrim has directed 

^ Mysticism, Dr. Max Nordau says, " is the expression of the inaptitude 
for attention, for clear thought, and control of the emotions, and has for its 
cause the weakness of the higher cerebral centres." — Degeneration, p. 536. 

124 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

his steps ? Tlie city of Hara is to the east, that of Ali 
to the west ; but explore your own heart, for there are 
both Eama and Karim." ^ 

A charact'eristic story told of Kabir, extracted from 
Shea and Troyes' translation of the Dabistan, may not be 
out of place here. 

" Kabir showed always great regard for the faquirs. 
One day a number of dervishes came to him. He received 
them with respect in his house. As he possessed nothing, 
to show his generosity and munificence to them, he went 
from door to door to procure something ; but, having found 
nothing, he said to his wife, ' Hast thou no friend from 
whom thou mayest borrow something ? ' She answered, 
' There is a grocer in this street who threw an eye of 
bad desire upon me ; would I from this sinner demand 
something, I should obtain it.' Kabir said, ' Go im- 
mediately to him, grant him what he desires, and bring 
something for the dervishes.' The woman went to the 
lewd grocer and requested the loan of what she required. 
He rephed, ' If thou comest this night to me, thy request 
is granted.' The woman consented, and swore the oath 
which he imposed upon her to come, after which the 
grocer gave her rice, oil, and whatever these men might 
like. When the faquirs, well satisfied, went to rest, a 
heavy rain began to fall, and the woman wished to break 
her engagement ; but Kabir, in order to keep her true to 
her word, having taken her upon his shoulder, carried her 
in the dark and rainy night through the deep mud to the 
shop of the bad grocer, and placed himself there in a 
corner. When the woman had entered into the interior 
part of the house, and the man found her feet unsullied, 
he said to her, ' How didst thou arrive without thy feet 
being dirty ? ' The woman concealed the fact. The grocer 
conjured her by the holy name of God to reveal the 
truth. The woman, unable to refuse, said what had taken 
place. The grocer, on hearing this, shrieked and was 
senseless. When he had recovered his senses, he ran 
out and threw himself at Kabir's feet. Afterwards, having 

1 Sabda the 56th, quoted in Professor H. H. Wilson's Sketch of the 
Religious Sects of the Hindus, pp. 52, 53. 

125 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

distributed among the poor whatever he had in his shop, 
he became a viragi.^^ ^ 

The cardinal precepts of Kabir are the obhgations of 
humanity and truth, the desirabihty of retirement from the 
world, and, above all, " implicit devotion in word, act, and 
thought to the guru, or spiritual guide." This last precept, 
which did not originate with Kabir, and is by no means 
pecuhar to his sect, has taken strong hold of the Indian 
mind, and has led to g'l^rw-worship of a decidedly objection- 
able type. 

Much of Kabir's teaching was so greatly to the taste 
of his Muhammadan countrymen that they actually claimed 
him as a true Muslim. It is narrated that after his death 
both Hindus and Muhammadans contended for the possession 
of his body, each desiring to do honour to the saint ; but, 
while they disputed, Kabir himself appeared in their midst, 
and directed them to look under the cloth which was supposed 
to cover his mortal remains, and after saying this instantly 
vanished. When the coverlet was lifted a heap of sweet- 
scented flowers was discovered, and nothing more. The 
contending parties, astonished and awestruck, shared the 
blooms between them, and dealt with them according to 
their respective funeral ceremonies. 

One half of the flowers was burnt by the Hindus, the 
other half was buried by the Muslims, and a cenotaph 
erected over it. 

It is impossible to overlook the fact that Kabir stands 
out in prominent contrast with the Hindu sect-founders 
who had preceded him, being a low-caste man and un- 
educated, and that in him the influence of Islam and 
perhaps also of Christianity are clearly traceable. The 
importance of Kabir in the more recent religious history of 
India is not to be gauged by the number of his professed 
followers — the Kabir -fanthis — for they are not a very 
considerable body ; but Kabir's teaching has largely in- 
fluenced that of subsequent sect-founders — Guru Nanak, 
for example. 

The books recognised by his followers as embodying 

^ The Dabistan of Mosun Fani, translated by Shea and Troyes, vol. ii. 
pp. 189, 190. 

126 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

the teachings of Kabir are known collectively as the Khas 
Grantha, and consist of some twenty works in Hindi verse, 
some of them of considerable size. 

The followers of Kabir regard him as an incarnation of 
the deity, and pay him divine honours, and of course many 
miraculous circumstances connected with his life and doings 
are narrated. 

Monasteries for the accommodation of Kahir-'panthis 
exist in many places, and their mendicant friars may be 
met with all over Northern India. 

The age of Martin Luther was a time of considerable 
religious activity in India, for there were no less than 
three founders of leading Hindu sects who were contem- 
poraries of the great European reformer, all three belonging 
to northern parts of India — viz. Vallabhacharya preaching 
at Benares, Chaitanya at Nadya in Bengal, and Nanak in 
the Punjab. 

Vallabhacharya (or Ballavacharya) was born at Benares 
in 1479 A.D. of Brahman parents, and in his mature 
years set up in his native city the worship of Krishna, not 
as he is represented in the Mahabharata — shrewd statesman 
and brave warrior — but as Bala Gopala, the cowherd boy 
who indulged in amorous dalliance with the frail milk- 
maids of Bindrabun. Philosophically, Vallabha held that 
the human soul was a spark of the Divine Essence, and 
though separated from was yet identical with it. His 
system, which has attained great popularity and has led 
in practice to the grossest profligacy, is of great interest, 
because, unlike his sect-forming predecessors, Vallabha 
discountenanced all mortifications of the flesh, maintaining 
that the body should be reverenced and not ill-used. His 
revolt against the old ideas and deeply rooted sentiments 
of his own people curiously resembles the recoil from 
sacerdotalism, and particularly asceticism, which occurred 
contemporaneously in Europe under the stimulus of the 
spirit which led to that great epoch known as the 
Renaissance. 

At Nadya, the chief seat of Sanskrit learning in Bengal, 
Chaitanya (a.d. 1484-1527), a high -caste Brahman, ini- 
tiated a religious movement of considerable importance. 

127 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

At the time of Chaitanya's advent the political state 
of Bengal was, from the Hindu point of view, gloomy in 
the extreme,^ and the religion of the people seems to have 
been for the most part nothing but undisguised licentious- 
ness. Surely a reform of morals was essential before any 
amelioration of political conditions could be hoped for. 
" The bacchanalian orgies of the Tantrics," writes a Bengali, 
" and their worship of a ' shamefully exposed female,' 
provoked the abhorrence of Chaitanya and roused his energy 
to remove the deep blots upon the national character. He 
commenced his labours by holding meetings of his 
immediate friends. At these meetings he expounded the 
life and acts of Krishna. Passages in Bhagbut which 
everyone understood in a literal sense he construed 
figuratively ; and, by striking upon the emotional chord 
of our nature, he thought of putting down sensualism 
by sentiment. In a little time his enthusiasm affected 
hundreds, and gathered round him a body of disciples." '^ 

We have ample biographical details of Chaitanya, and 
from these it is evident that his was one of those highl}^ 
neurotic, emotional temperaments, bordering upon madness, 
which are characteristic of what it is the present fashion 
to call the " higher degenerates." More than once, indeed, 
the border line of sanity seems to have been passed by 
him, and he met his end by walking into the sea at Puri 
in a fit of mental aberration. The essence of the Nadya 
reformer's teaching has been thus summed up by a Bengali 
Brahman : " Chaitanya taught that hhakti, or fervent devo- 
tion, was the only road towards God, and that bhakti was 
of the following kinds : — 

1. The devotion of a servant to his master. 

2. The devotion of a friend to a friend. 

3. The devotion of a parent to a child. 

4. The devotion of a lady to her lover." 

^ " About the time when Sree Gaiiranga {i.e. Chaitanya) appeared, 
Bengal had nearly lost its independence. The ruler was a Mohammedan, 
and, though the Hindus succeeded from time to time in occupying the 
throne, they were obliged to embrace Mohammedanism in order to retain 
their sovereignty." — Lord Gauranga, or Salvation for All, by Shishir 
Kumar Ghose (Calcutta, 1897), vol. i. Introduction, p. ix. 

2 Travels of a Hindu, by Bholanath Chunder, pp. 29, 30. 

128 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

Cliaitanya recommended Radha worship, and taught 
that the best form of devotion was that which Radha, as 
the beloved mistress of Krishna, felt for him.^ The 
reformer also inculcated the necessity of strict vege- 
tarianism and total abstinence from intoxicants. He 
prohibited animal sacrifices, and even communication with 
all who performed such sacrifices. The remarriage of 
widows found favour with him. 

Men of all castes, even the lowest, and Muhammadans 
also, were admitted into his sect by Chaitanya. " Three 
of his principal disciples, namely, Rup, Sanatan, and 
Haridas, were Islamites." ^ 

An innovation made by Chaitanya was religious 
musical processions known as sankirians. How powerfully 
music — dreamy, sensuous, subtle music — may sway the 
emotions of men, even to ecstasy, is well known in the 
history of all religions, even Islam ; so it is not to be 
wondered at that the sankirtans of Chaitanya, appealing 
strongly to highly impressionable natures, aided the spread 
of his teaching very much, and have become an exceedingly 
popular feature in recent religious movements in India. 
Chaitanya was fond of theatricals, and, once playing with 
other amateurs, took the part of Rukhmini, the chief wife of 
Krishna. 

The history of religion shows how readily in all 
countries emotional natures import the ideas of sexual 
relationships into their mystical longings for union with 
the Divine Being — a tendency which even the strong hand 
of a guiding central authority has not always been able 
to restrain from developing into objectionable practices.^ 

1 Bhattacharjee's Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 469. 

2 Ibid. p. 464. 

^ Christian Mysticism, by W. R. Inge, pp. 159, 140. Writing of St. 
Catherine of Siena, " the spouse of Christ," Mr. John Addington Symonds 
says, " ' Cristo amore. Cristo amore.' The reiteration of the word ' love ' 
is most significant. It was the keynote of her whole theology, the main- 
spring of her life. In no merely figurative sense did she regard herself 
as the spouse of Christ, but dwelt upon the bliss, beyond all mortal happi- 
ness, which she enjoyed in supersensual communion with her Lord. It 
is easy to understand how such ideas might be, and have been, corrupted, 
when impressed on natures no less susceptible, but weaker and less gifted 
than St. Catherine's." — Sketches in Italy and Greece, iii. p. 53. 

I 129 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Now Chaitanya, unhampered by any controlling authority, 
preaching earnestly in a warm climate to a highly 
emotional people, commended with success the worship 
of Krishna cum Radha ; and such a combination, in spite 
of subtle hermeneutists explaining it as a mystical union, 
has not failed to lead to extravagant profligacy amongst 
the more ardent followers of the cult.^ 

Chaitanya, it may be mentioned, was anticipated by 
another leader, Nimbaditya, who founded a sect known as 
the Nimats, with headquarters at Muttra. It is almost 
unnecessary to say that the prophet of Nadiya was in the 
eyes of his disciples nothing less than an incarnation of 
Vishnu, and even in his lifetime a temple was erected, in 
which his image — an almost naked mendicant painted 
yellow — was the object of worship. 

The sect founded by Chaitanya nearly four hundred 
years ago is still flourishing, and seems latterly to have 
been making great progress. Bindrabun, on the banks of 
the Jumna, identified as the spot where Krishna carried 
on his intrigues with the gofis, owes its existence and its 
present flourishing state to Chaitanya and the sect which 
originated with him. The prophet himself left no issue, 
but he had two Brahman coadjutors in his life's mission ; 
and their descendants, now known as gossains, are the 
acknowledged and venerated spiritual heads of the sect. 

Writing with reference to the Vaishnavas of Bengal, 
and the Chaitanites in particular, Professor H. H. Wilson 
says — 

"Of all obligations, however, the guru padasraya, or 
servile veneration of the spiritual teacher, is the most 
important and compulsory. The members of this sect are 
not only required to deUver up themselves and everything 
valuable to the disposal of the guru, they are not only to 
entertain full belief in the usual Vaishnava tenet, which 
identifies the votary, the teacher, and the god, but they 
are to look upon the guru as one and the present deity, 
as possessed of more authority even than the deity, and 
as one whose favour is more to be courted and whose 

1 An account of the more disreputable Chaitanite sects of Bengal is given 
in Dr, Bhattacharjee's Hindu Castes and Sects, pp. 480-83. 

130 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

anger is more to be deprecated than even that of Krishna 
himself." 1 

The Chaitanites, who have long manifested a marked 
hostility to the Brahmans, have their own mendicant 
orders and their monasteries, many of them flourishing 
institutions. 

In the wake of the successful teaching of Chaitanya 
we have the Radha Ballabis, who afiord a curious and 
instructive instance — not, it is true, confined to Hinduism 
— of the manner in which worship is gradually transferred 
from the principal divinity to others associated with him 
even in a distinctly subordinate capacity. The sect referred 
to was founded, it is said, at the end of the sixteenth century, 
with headquarters at Bindrabun in Northern India, the 
object in view being to concentrate attention upon the 
worship of Radha, even in preference to that of Krishna 
himself ; the faithful and devoted human mistress thus 
superseding, as it were, in men's veneration her divine but 
fickle lover. 

Nanak. — A spiritual descendant of Kabir was Baba 
Nanak, a Hindu of the Kshatriya caste, who was born in 
the Punjab in a.d. 1469, and died there in 1539. From his 
earliest youth Nanak displayed a strong leaning towards 
the society of sadhus, a disincHnation for regular work of 
any kind, and a passion for a wandering life. He is said 
to have travelled extensively over India, and to have 
visited Persia and even Mecca. 

Needless to say, many miracles are attributed to him.^ 
His opinions and teachings — vague and mysterious — are 
embodied in the Adi Granth ("The First Book"), a 
collection of prayers, or rather rhapsodies, compiled some 
fifty years after his death by one of hia successors. Guru 
Arjan Dev. From these it may be gathered that Nanak 
acknowledged the existence of the Hindu divinities, over 
whom, however, he placed a Supreme Being, Akal Purkh, 
the Formless One. 

From passages in the Japji composed by Nanak 
himself, it may be gathered that his philosophical ideas 

* Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 103. ^ Vide supra, pp. 31-33. 

131 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

differed little, if at all, from ordinary Hindu pantheism, 
his Supreme Being having no separate, conscious existence. 
But so much was Nanak under the influence of Islam that 
he often refers to God in terms which might be appropriately- 
used by a Muhammadan or a Christian. And he was so 
far emancipated from the power of Hindu traditions and 
practice that he dissuaded his disciples from the worship 
of idols and the observance of Hindu religious ceremonies. 
Born and reared under a powerful Muhammadan govern- 
ment, Nanak endeavoured, like his predecessor Kabir, 
to assimilate his doctrines to those of his masters without 
abandoning the faith of his fathers ; and he strove to con- 
ciliate the dominant class by maintaining that there was 
no material difference between Hindu and Muslim, this 
syncretism being only too natural on the part of the religious 
Hindu in the face of the powerful bigotry and proselytising 
energy of the Islamic rulers. 

Nanak claimed that the Supreme Being was his guru, 
and had appointed him the guru of mankind. All castes 
were admitted into his sect, now well known as the Sikhs 
of the Punjab. One of his earliest disciples, Mardana, was 
a Mussulman by birth. 

Nanak was succeeded by nine gurus, and under the 
last of these— Govind Singh (a.d. 1675-1708), who 
compiled a second Granth known as the Granth of the 
Tenth Reign — the peaceful reHgion of Nanak was trans- 
formed into a militant creed. Stimulated by this new 
cult, the Sikhs developed later on into a powerful political 
organisation. This remarkable metamorphosis was due to 
resentment at the religious persecutions and oppressive 
exactions carried on by the Muhammadan rulers of India, 
and was powerfully aided by the favourable opportunity 
for revenge, loot, and self -aggrandisement afforded by the 
very palpable decay of the Muslim power in India during 
the eighteenth century. 

The Sikhs of Govind Singh are permitted to eat flesh, 
though not beef, and may drink ardent spirits and bhang, 
but are prohibited from using tobacco in any form. 

On the whole, Sikhism seems to have been an effort, 
prolonged, but by no means quite successful, to do without 

132 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

the gods of the Hindu Pantheon and their Brahman 
priesthood, to discard idolatry, and to shake off the fetters 
of caste. At the period of its greatest divergence from 
Hinduism, the Sikh sect stands forth as a democratic 
brotherhood, beheving in a sort of vague Indian pantheism 
disguised as monotheism. Now, however, many shades 
of opinion prevail amongst the Sikhs, and many very 
Hindu practices find favour amongst a large proportion 
of the brotherhood, 

Sikhism has given rise to several mendicant orders, 
and a goodly number of flourishing monasteries known as 
Akharas, belonging to the sect, exist in the Punjab and 
Northern India. 

Dadu (a.d. 1550-1600). — Within a few years of the 
death of Baba Nanak, a very low-caste man of the name of 
Dadu founded in Rajputana a new non-idolatrous sect of 
Rama worshippers, and after his mission on earth was 
completed he ascended to heaven from the hill Naraina in 
Jeypore territory, where stands the principal monastery of 
his sect, known as the Dadu Panthis. 

Ram Cham, belonging to the first half of the eighteenth 
century, was another reformer who, resolutely opposing idol 
worship, embroiled himself with the Brahmans, and was in 
consequence subjected to much persecution at their hands. 
The Ram Sanehi sect founded by him is of austere habits, 
and freely admits to its fellowship Hindus of all castes. 
All members of the sect are vegetarians, and are required 
to abstain from intoxicants as well as from narcotic drugs 
and tobacco. 

Rama is the special god of the sect. Both men and 
women take part daily in his worship, though the two 
sexes are not permitted to do so at the same time. The 
religious services of the Ram Sanehis are said to have a 
strong resemblance to those of the Mussulmans. 

Two mendicant orders belong to the sect, which has 
its principal monastery at Shahpur in Rajputana. 

In addition to the number of examples of Hindu 
heresiarchs already given in this volume, one female 

133 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sect - founder, the Rajput princess Mirabai, may also be 
mentioned. 

Of this lady it is related in the Bhakta mala^ that 
on account of her refusal to abandon the worship of Krishna, 
at the command of her husband, the Rana of Udaypur, she 
was expelled from the royal palace, but in consideration of 
her rank was allowed a separate residence. The worship of 
Ranachor, a form of the youthful Krishna, was the one 
which had captivated the imagination of the princess, and, 
as a reward for her devotion to the divine object of her 
adoration, she was eventually, in a miraculous manner, 
received into the image of her especial deity, and thus, in 
appropriate fashion, disappeared from the world. 

An idea of the transcendental views held by this 
lady (and by Krishna-Radha worshippers generally) may 
be gathered from the following anecdote told of her : — 
" AVhen Mirabai, the Rajput princess, who left everything 
for her love for Krishna, visited the renowned Rup 
Goswami of Brindaban, one of the chief hhaktas of Sree 
Gauranga (Chaitanya), Rup, an ascetic of the highest 
order, refused to see her on the ground that he was pre- 
cluded from seeing the face of a woman. As a fact, Mirabai 
was a most beautiful young princess, and he had not much 
faith in her pretensions. Hearing the message of Rup, 
Mirabai replied, ' Is he then a male ? If so, he has no 
access to Brindaban. Males cannot enter there, and, if 
the goddess of Brindaban comes to know of his presence, 
she will turn him out. For does not the great Goswami 
know that there is but one male in existence, namely, my 
beloved Kanai Lai (an endearing name of Krishna), and 
that all besides are females ? ' Rup now understood 
that Mirabai was really a staunch devotee of Krishna, 
and so agreed to see her." ^ 

What peculiar religious customs spring from such 
opinions, the following extract shows : — 

" Sukee-hJiava. — These mendicants, born in the western 

^ See Profeseor Wilson'B Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, pp. 
85-87. 

^ Lord Gauranga, or Salvation for All, by Shishir Kumar Gliosc, vol. i. 
Introduction, p. xl. (Calcutta, 1897). 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

provinces and composed of Bramhuns and other castes, 
are followers of Krishna, and, though men, put on the 
dress and ornaments and assume the manners of women, 
professing the same attachment to Krishna as the milk- 
maids are said to have had when Krishna was on earth. 
They paint and adorn with flowers an image of Krishna, 
and dancing around it, in imitation of the milkmaids, 
worship it daily." ^ 

A small sect called Mirabais, acknowledging the leader- 
ship of the Rajput princess, is said to be still in existence 
in Western India. 

Taking a retrospective survey of Neo-Brahmanism as 
sketched in the foregoing pages, one cannot help being 
impressed with the following facts. Although the worship 
of Vishnu under the forms of Krishna and Rama spread 
far and wide, although the primitive phallic cult of Siva 
also flourished contemporaneously, although men in their 
anxiety paid homage impartially at the shrines of both these 
gods of the Hindu triad, and in Eastern India invoked, 
with many strange rites, the goddesses Durga and Kali, 
yet the Muhammadan Empire went on extending irresistibly, 
until at length it became paramount in India. Islam, 
indeed, with its uncompromising monotheism and its abhor- 
rence of idolatry, made itself powerfully felt throughout the 
land, while numbers of the subjugated became. converts to 
the vigorously proselytising creed of the conquerors, under 
which invidious distinctions of caste were not maintained. 

Amidst the wreck of Hindu States the question of the 
preservation of Hinduism itself became of vital importance. 
Diverse methods of achieving this great object naturally 
suggested themselves to differently constituted minds. 
Hinduism might be made softly alluring, by some means 
or other, so as still to retain the allegiance of a disillusioned 
race, no longer confident in the support of its gods and 
its arrogant priesthood ; or the national rehgion might be 
reformed to suit the new order of ideas awakened by the 
presence and claims of Islam ; or it might be modified so 
as to resemble, outwardly at least, the Muslim faith, and 
thus avoid contempt and evade persecution. 

1 Ward's Hindus, p. 296. 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Three distinct effects arose from the circumstances and 
conditions to which attention has just been drawn. 

1. The rise of sects combining the worship of Radha, 
the favourite mistress of Krishna, with that of her divine 
lover — a combination too naturally suggestive of sensuality, 
and one lending itself readily to the establishment of prac- 
tices calculated to attract followers by their veiled or open 
immorality. To this class belong the sects of the Nimats, 
the Radha Vallabhis (sixteenth century), and the Chaitanites 
(sixteenth century) of Bengal. 

2. The appearance of conciliatory syncretic Hindu 
sects intended, at any rate by their original founders, to 
bridge over the differences between the religions of the 
Hindus and their Muslim rulers — to reconcile them, in 
fact. In this category may be placed the sects formed 
in Northern India by Kabir (sixteenth century) and by 
Guru Nanak (sixteenth century), though the latter sect was 
under subsequent spiritual leaders developed along very 
different lines from those adopted by the founder. 

3. The formation of Hindu sects opposed to idolatry : 
for example, the Ram- worshipping Dadu Panthis (a.d. 
1550-1600) and Ram Sanehis (a.d. 1718), both of 
Rajputana. 

During the decay of the Muhammadan and the rise of 

the British power in India, the process of sect-formation 

has been as active as ever. New and potent factors, such 

as Western education and aggressive Christianity, have 

come into play in the disintegration of immemorial beliefs 

and practices and the formation of new ones. None of 

all the main t3^es of post-Buddhist Hinduism can be said 

to be actually dying out ; indeed, under the complete 

religious freedom of British rule they all appear to give 

signs of renewed vitality. Many recent sects are of a 

decidedly objectionable type ; but, whether respectable or 

otherwise, nearly all furnish a contingent of mendicants 

to swell the hordes of the privileged itinerants who swarm 

over the country. 

Under the new conditions of life obtaining in India, 
and in response to intellectual stimuU of European origin, 
there have recently appeared in our own time certain 

136 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

small theistic, non-idolatrous sects, like the Brahmo-samaj^ 
whose chief prophet, the eloquent Keshub Chunder Sen, 
was a sudra ; and the Arya-samaj, founded by a Mahratta 
Brahman named Dayanand, a man of commanding talents 
and personality. The former of these sects is well known 
in Europe and America, through its founder and some 
of its prominent apostles having visited the West and 
lectured there ; but the Brahmo cult has still a quite 
insignificant following, perhaps because, by denying the 
authority of the Vedas, it has practically drifted away 
from Hinduism. The Arya-samaj, though hardly a 
purely religious sect, adhered to the Vedas, as interpreted 
by Dayanand ; but it favours certain practices which are 
certain, in the course of time, to undermine its morals, 
though possibly these very practices might prove an attrac- 
tion and help to swell the numbers of the new sect. 

It remains to note the fact that political circumstances 
and national aspirations have also, in recent times, called 
into being the dangerous sect of the Kukas in the Punjab, 
and have led quite lately to the very significant deification 
in his own country of the Mahratta chieftain Seva-ji 
(a.d. 1627-80), famous for his successes against the Mu- 
hammadans, and for the establishment of the practical 
supremacy of the Mahrattas in Southern India.^ 

And so the kaleidoscope of Indian religious sects 
presents at every succeeding period new groups and com- 
binations. For each sect, old or new, it is an absolute 
necessity that it should have its own temples, to accommo- 
date the material representations of its chosen divinities 
and to lodge the priests who conduct the worship of the 
idols and accept the gifts presented to them. Moreover, 
if the sect is to spread and flourish, it must have its own 
missionaries, who, in conformity with immemorial Indian 
traditions, should be wandering ascetics. Nor could it 
have been difiicult, at any time, to find such men in 

^ Under the auspices of certain Indian politicians, the Sivaji festival 
was, for the first time, celebrated in Calcutta in June 1902, and was the 
occasion for many significant speeches by no means calculated to promote 
harmonious relations between the rulers and the ruled in India. — Vide 
The Englishman, Calcutta, 26th June 1902. 

137 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

abundance owing to the many causes predisposing to world- 
weariness, renunciation, and abstention from labour which 
have been ever present in India. 

Hinduism is certainly very old, and its foundations lie 
deep down in the hearts of the Indian people, but even 
my brief sketch of its history must have made it abun- 
dantly clear that, contrary to the prevailing impression, 
it has undergone vast changes in the course of time, and 
that it is still as plastic as of old, because neither now nor 
at any previous stages of its development, especially since 
the Buddhist revolt, has it been subject to that organised 
control of a centralised authority which circumstances 
rendered possible in Europe ; hence new sects have arisen, 
and have expanded in a way which was not tolerated 
by the strong arm of the ecclesiastical authorities in 
Christendom. 

The Aryan nature -gods have certainly long ceased to 
be worshipped. Indra, Kuvera, Yama, Varuna, Garuda, 
and Soma have likewise fallen into the background of 
oblivion. It is true that the Brahmans have managed to 
secure long-continued veneration for their tutelary deity 
Siva, but the people have enthroned two Kshatriya heroes, 
Krishna and Rama, as the especial objects of their venera- 
tion ; the former, for many reasons, being the more popular 
of the two, and likely, in one aspect or other, to maintain 
his place for ages to come in the hearts of the Hindus. 

With the striking changes which the religion of the 
Hindus has steadily undergone there have been concomitant 
mutations in the attitude of the worshippers towards the 
unseen powers. 

Within the pale of Brahmanism the worshipper relied 
on complicated rites and ceremonies, on sacrifices, spells, 
pilgrimages, and almsgiving — all these being conducted by 
or under the strict guidance solely of the Brahman priest- 
hood, who practically controlled his destinies, and without 
whom there was no possible salvation. Buddhism, reject- 
ing such sacerdotal aids, required its followers to trust to 
complete detachment from the world as the safest and 
surest means of securing happiness here and spiritual 
deliverance hereafter ; and Buddhism expected each man 

138 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

or woman to work out his or her own emancipation. In 
modern Hinduism, which succeeded Buddhism, the Brah- 
mans never recovered such an ascendant position as they 
had enjoyed in earher days, for the ascetic saints and sages 
had acquired too much consideration and authority to be 
suppressed or set aside. And at the same time new ideas 
had taken hold of men's minds, causing them to place less 
rehance than of yore in the old ceremonial rites, and leaving 
them to place their trust and hope in passionate devotion 
to or faith in a chosen god. A great and mighty change 
this, a momentous revolution. But since for most men 
the divinity is too high, too remote, too transcendent for 
this devotion, the Hindu has in many cases accepted as 
substitute for the chosen deity his supposed representative, 
his very incarnation, the living guru, the saintly sadhu 
to whom he actually pays his adoration.^ Only the wilfully 
blind could fail to see the parallelism between these develop- 
ments and those which have occurred in other more familiar 
creeds. 

In respect to that most important subject, caste, it may 
be said that the appearance of each new sect has been 
signalised by a renewed struggle against the disabilities 
imposed by caste, but with little practical result beyond 
the formation of new castes or sub-castes ; which is by no 
means to be wondered at, since the time-honoured system 
has, naturally, the unflinching, whole-hearted support of 
the superior classes, and particularly of the still powerful 
Brahmanical priesthood. 

Recently that most intellectual of rulers, the German 
Emperor, was reported to have said " that the germ of 
every sectarian movement is political, so is the germ of 
every political movement a question of the material welfare 
of the people ; " and there is profound truth in this state- 
ment. How frequently in Europe and elsewhere unfavour- 
able political conditions have led to general despondency, 
and thereafter to religious revivals and the birth of 

^ How completely even a highly educated and practical man can sub- 
ordinate himself to a living guru is well exemplified in the case of an ex- 
Postmaster- General of the North-West Provinces, cited in Professor Max 
Miiller'8 Life and Sayings of Bama Krishna, pp. 20-22. 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

heretical sects or new monastic orders, is a matter of history. 
The fact being admitted that the poHtical background of 
each period cannot but colour the minds of the populace 
and its leaders, it becomes a factor of too much importance 
to be passed over entirely ; hence the place given to it in 
the foregoing brief outline of the rise and progress of modern 
Hinduism seems to need no special justification. 

As supplementary to the above condensed account of 
the appearance from time to time of new gods and novel 
conceptions in Hinduism, and of the genesis of the more 
prominent sects under the leadership of religious reformers, 
the important fact must not be overlooked that, whatever 
the doctrinal views and ultimate hopes of subtle theologians 
and earnest religionists may have been, there have never, at 
any period, been wanting multitudes of Hindu people indis- 
posed to undergo austerities or personal discomforts of any 
kind, and yet none the less desirous of securing a prosperous 
time in this life, a better time in the next mundane existence, 
and eventually also eons of bliss in the various heavens of 
the gods. And this worldly-minded class has, on account 
of its wealth and influence, been too important and useful 
a factor in the community to be really slighted by the 
prophets and the priesthood, however much such professors 
of religion might rail against riches as such. Renunciation, 
as preached by most founders of sects or religions, if univer- 
sally practised, could obviously only end in national ex- 
tinction ; hence it follows that, to preclude such a disaster, 
there must always be a class of workers whose special function 
it is to produce and provide the necessaries of life for them- 
selves and also for those who, abstaining from all labour, 
desire to live on alms. 

And indeed, wherever religion recommends or enjoins 
renunciation, it also proclaims, with no uncertain voice, that 
liberality to the poor — meaning more particularly the re- 
ligious poor — and the priestly classes will be unstintingly 
rewarded here and hereafter. Mendicity, on the colossal 
scale in which it has existed in India time out of mind, 
could only be possible on the condition of widespread and 
whole-hearted charitableness on the part of laymen of all 
classes ; hence it is not surprising to find charity lauded in 

140 



SUCCESSIVE PHASES OF MODERN HINDUISM 

the Hindu Scriptures as the special virtue of this present 
age, known to Hindus as the Kali Yuga. 

" In the Krita Yuga,''^ says Vrihaspati, " the prevailing 
virtue is declared to be religious austerity ; in the Trita, 
divine knowledge ; in the Divapara, sacrifices ; and in the 
Kali Yuga, charity, compassion, and restraint of passions. 

" Manu, however, beginning with the use of almost 
identical words, constitutes charity alone the supreme 
virtue in the degenerate Kali Yuga — 

" ' In the Krita Yuga the prevailing virtue is declared to 
be rehgious austerity ; in the Trita, divine knowledge ; in 
the Divaparaj sacrifices ; in the Kali Yuga, charity alone.' " ^ 

^ The Hindu Law of Endowments, Tagore Law Lectures, 1892, by 
Pandit Prannath Saraswati, M.A. and B.L., p. 15 (Thacker, Spink, & 
Co., Calcutta). 



141 



CHAPTER VIII 



HINDU ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

Section I. — Introductory Remarks — The Multiplicity of Hindu Sects 
by no means Abnormal — Jain Monks or Yatis interviewed — Their 
Opinions and Habits. 




HERE are, as might 
have been expected, 
a large number of Hindu 
sects. Professor Wilson 
gives a list of forty-three 
of them, and adds that in 
popular works on the sub- 
ject ninety-six heresies are 
ordinarily recognised. It 
is needless to say that even 
this figure would not nearly 
represent 1 1 the actual num- 
ber existing at the present 
time. Amongst the sects 
studied and described by 
Europeans are some whose"'tenets and practices have filled 
pious Westerns with supercilious wonderment or holy 
horror ; but, if we are to be just, it must be admitted that 
such abnormalities may be found, if looked for, in the 
by-paths of every religion, not excepting the Christian. 
All religions in the course of their existence give rise to a 
multitude of heretical separatists. In the case of Chris- 
tianity, heresies appeared from apostolic times, and some 
sects holding opinions entirely subversive of morality as 
we understand it came into existence very early indeed : 

142 






ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

for example, the Antinomians, wlio held that the moral 
law was not binding upon Christians. Sects possessed 
of little inherent vitality died of natural exhaustion, but 
many, both in the early centuries and in the Middle Ages, 
such as the Gnostics, Manichseans, Nestorians, Albigenses, 
Hussites, and others, were forcibly and relentlessly sup- 
pressed by Church and State authority. Since the successful 
revolt against the power of the Papacy in the sixteenth 
century, a very considerable number of dissenting Christian 
sects, some with ideas in regard to political and sexual 
morality far removed from those ordinarily accepted by the 
established Churches, have appeared and secured a footing 
for themselves.^ 

Similarly, Hinduism in its long history has produced 
a great variety of peculiar sects, and, as it differs from 
Christianity in not having had a powerful, well-organised, 
and resolute central authority to guide for centuries its 
theological development, the heresies — often characterised 
by great freedom and originality of doctrine and much 
latitude in practice — ^have, in most cases, been able to run 
a normal coarse, and have sometimes grown to be almost 
semi-independent religions. 

It seems superfluous to state that the foregoing remarks 
and comparisons are merely intended to remove the erroneous 
impression which prevails, rather widely, that there is 
something abnormal in the multiplicity of religious sects to 
be found in India. 

Amongst the still existing Indian sects, the Jains, so 
interesting in themselves, and also as a link with Buddhism, 
claim precedence of attention. This ancient sect, — ^it is 
hardly an independent religion now, — whose origin is perhaps 
antecedent to that of Buddhism, and therefore may date 
back earlier than the sixth century- B.C., exhibits much of 
the spirit, the precepts, and the discipline of monasticism 
as established or organised by Gautama Buddha, a full 
description of which may be read in Mr. Spence Hardy's 
comprehensive work entitled Eastern Monachism. As, how- 

^ Amongst sects of quite recent date originating in Protestant countries 
may be named the Swedenborgians, Mormons, Shakers, Irvingites, Darby- 
it-es, Sandemftnians, Perfectionists, Agapgjaonites, and Christian Scientists. 

H3 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

ever, I do not desire to deal with the Jain system in any 
detail, may I invite the reader to make the acqiiaintance 
of the Jains — monks, nuns, and lajnnen — by following me 
as I describe for him my impressions of certain religious 
meetings of that most ancient sect held in the autumn of 
1898, at which I had the privilege of being present. 

Jain Monks or Yatis. — A few high steps rising from 
the mud of the narrow overcrowded lane brought me into 
a dark hall, which gave access to a straight and steep 
flight of brick stairs not a yard wide between its bounding 
walls. I ascended these stairs, and, after passing through 
a low restricted doorway at the top, found myself on the 
flat terrace roof of the main building — an ordinary house 
such as may be found in the native quarters of any city 
in Upper India. This flat roof, however, had been partially 
built upon along three sides, the rooms thus formed being 
all doorless and practically open towards the central un- 
covered space. The effect was as if three verandahs opened 
upon an ample central hypsethral court. For privacy and 
convenience in a hot tropical climate, nothing could be more 
admirably conceived. In one of the rooms, or verandahs, 
which might have been eighteen or twenty feet long and eight 
or ten feet wide, there were assembled a number of weU-to-do 
persons — merchants, shopkeepers, and others — sitting upon 
cotton carpets and floorcloths. At one end was a raised 
platform made of rough planks, and on it was seated an 
elderly Jain monk of some importance, with two or three 
others in attendance. I had been expected, so a small 
cane chair covered with a white cloth had, with thoughtful 
kindness, been placed for me near the senior monk, on his 
right hand, neither on the platform nor under the roof, 
but just outside. 

The whole of the platform was not of uniform height ; 
the part where the principal monk sat was higher by a 
few inches than the part occupied by the juniors. There 
is no equahty in this world ; there never was, and there 
never will be ! No furniture could be seen in the room, 
but, as a concession to the imperious demands of the new 
age, a big-faced clock occupied a conspicuous place on the 
wall. Behind the monks, and partially concealed from 

144 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

view by the platform on which they sat, was a group of 
women, amongst whom were at least forty nmis. The 
monks presented a peculiar appearance. Clean-shaven 
were they all — head, face, and eyebrows. Each man wore 
a sort of bib of three or four folds of white cloth, not under 
his chin, but over his nose and mouth, held in place by strings 
passed above the ears and tied behind the head. These 
were characteristic outward symbols of the most important 
of Jain tenets, — absolute respect for life in all its 
forms, — and are worn in order to obviate the possible 
accidental and unintentional destruction of even the 
minutest organisms by being drawn into the nose or 
mouth in the ordinary process of respiration. Hence 
they are really life protectors. But an inconvenient article 
like this could be used by ordinary people only on purely 
ceremonial occasions, and not always then, for several 
men in the room, instead of wearing their bibs, carried 
them in their hands. A picture of a Jain yati appears at 
the commencement of the chapter. 

The nuns, of course, had their mouths and noses covered, 
and were, besides, so completely veiled as to show little of 
their faces but a pair of eyes. 

Only the principal monk spoke, and fortunately he 
was by no means disinclined to be communicative. He 
interested me greatly by his serene yet pathetic gravity 
and a gentle dignity which seemed to pervade his every 
word and movement. He sat cross-legged on the platform, 
clothed in two white cotton sheets — one round his loins 
and the other about his shoulders. No beads, bangles, or 
armlets, nor marks of any kind, either ornamented or dis- 
figured his person. The two cotton sheets were, as he 
told me, all the clothes he might wear or possess, with the 
exception of half a blanket in the winter time. Many 
other interesting particulars about his order did the vener- 
able yati communicate to me ; and, though these may 
be found in European books on Jainism, 1 was pleased to 
receive them from him, and I reproduce them here. 

During the four months of the rainy season known as 
the chamasa, the Jain monk may seek shelter and repose 
in a dharmsala of his order, which is a guest-house 
K 145 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

established by lay Jains for tbe accommodation of the 
monks ; but for eight months in every year he must 
wander over the country barefooted and bareheaded, as 
friars of his order have done since at least five hundred 
years before the birth of Christ. He may on no account 
avail himself of any mode of conveyance, whether horse, 
carriage, boat, or railway car ; nor may he ever sleep in a 
bed. And year after year they wander about, these gentle 
monks, without staff or scrip, armed only with soft besoms 
of cotton threads to tenderly brush away minute insects 
that might happen to be in danger of destruction under 
the pressure of their persons whenever fatigue necessitates 
some rest for their wearied limbs. Many of these besoms 
were in evidence amongst the audience, and each monk 
present was provided with one for his own especial use. 
The only other property any of these men may possess 
is a wooden alms-bowl in which to receive food. Monks 
who can read may carry about with them their sacred 
books in the Prakrit character. Some of these books were 
shown to me, beautiful specimens of caligraphy, all in 
detached leaves protected by a couple of thin wooden 
boards. Metal must on no account be touched by the 
monks, except perhaps in the form of a needle, which may 
be borrowed when required, but must be returned the same 
day before the sun goes down. 

Since the most important guiding principle of their 
lives is to avoid hurting, leave alone killing, any living 
thing, it is obvious that they do not partake of flesh meat 
of any kind whatever ; but they carry their self-denial 
further, for they never taste fruit and drink no wine of any 
sort. From sunset to sunrise they must, on no pretext 
whatever, eat or drink anything. Jain sadhus should never 
bathe, for if they draw water from tank or well they are 
sure to be the cause of death or suffering to hving creatures. 
They may not drink any water but what has been used for 
culinary purposes : for example, water in which rice or 
vegetables have been boiled, or warm water used for rinsing 
out cooking-pots. Such water was not drawn for them, or 
stored for them ; it had been iised already, so the act of 
drinking it could bring no sin to them. They may even 

146 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

use such water for sponging themselves. That is the 
nearest approach to a bath that is permissible under any 
circumstances. 

Jain monks are not to Hght a fire, for fear of kiUing 
any living thing that may be lodging in the fuel. 

When engaged on their annual tramp the monks go 
to the houses of Hindus, but preferably to those of their 
own sect, generally known as Bhabras, where they ask for 
a bit of bread which may be over from the last meal and 
about to be thrown away. 

The lay members of the sect loyally support the 
wandering monks and nuns, some curious rules regulating 
the intercourse between them. One of these ascetics 
visiting the house of a lay member may enter boldly 
without announcing his or her presence, and may help 
himself to what food is available ; but if the fire is ahght 
in the room the ascetic should take nothing, and so also 
when the pots and pans happen to be in contact with one 
another. 

Women must on no account be touched by Jain monks, 
nor even may their garments come in contact without 
serious defilement, only to be atoned for by fastings and 
penances. And of course the same rule appHes, mutatis 
mutandis, to the case of Jain nuns. 

When the Jain monk dies, his fellows apprise any 
members of their sect who may be near at hand of the 
event ; but they themselves pass on. It is for the stranger 
to cremate or bury the corpse, or leave it to its fate. 
What matters the body when the soul has deserted it ? 

There was a suspicion of vanity in the manner of the 
old monk as he stated and explained to me these facts 
about his order, and I felt that he needed this sustaining 
spiritual pride to help him along his difiicult way, not less 
difficult for being voluntary. His personal appearance 
gave the impression of great suffering, and his attendants 
all had the same appearance, contrasting y&tj much indeed 
with the ordinary sadhus of other sects. And wherefore 
this austere rejection of the world's goods, wherefore all 
this self - inflicted misery ? Is it to attain a glorious 
heaven hereafter, a blessed existence after death ? No ! 

147 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

It is, as the old monk explained to me, only to escape 
rebirth — for the Jain believes in the transmigration of 
souls — and to attain eternal rest. 

"It is sin in this life," said the yati, " and the conse- 
quences of sin in previous existences that clog and disj&gure 
the pure spirit. These have to be got rid of if the soul is 
to be set free. Suppose," he went on, " we have a pot 
of impure butter : how do we purify it, how do we separate 
extraneous stuff from the pure substance ? We heat the 
fot which contains it, and then the ghee and the impurities 
part asunder, the latter falling to the bottom of the vessel. 
So we must heat {i.e. affiict) the body, which is the pot 
containing both the pure spirit and the attendant impurities, 
till on the furnace of asceticism one is completely separated 
from the other. Hence our fastings and our self-denials, 
all to secure exemption from future rebirths and to attain 
blessed narvana.^^ And as he said this, the serenity of 
the old monk's countenance and his placid eyes seemed 
an assurance that he himself was well on the way to the 
longed-for goal. 

After courteously answering my many questions, the 
old man read to the assembly some selections from the 
Jain sacred books and expounded the same. He then 
addressed his audience, and in the course of his sermon 
plainly indicated his disbelief in the existence of God. A 
discussion afterwards arose between him and a pandit who 
accompanied me, with, as might have been expected, a 
resultless display of Sanskrit learning and subtle dialectics. 

I am quite sure that the uncompromising atheism of 
the yati was not shared by all his hearers ; for a day or 
two afterwards a Jain layman, who had been present at 
the meeting, came to me and explained what he, and 
probably a majority of the sect, understood to be the 
functions of God in the universe. He said that the 
Creator (evidently accepting His existence) was by no 
means the cause of or responsible for the wickedness and 
suffering in this world. Each individual soul received the 
reward or punishment due to its own acts. God through 
His sacred law warned all men against the consequences of 
evil-doing, and showed them the right way ; hut He did not 

148 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

interfere in the affairs of the world} Yet the more He and 
His commandments were remembered the better for each 
separate soul. It was like this : A man's house is on fire, 
and he asleep. A stranger comes and wakens him up. 
It is for the owner now to see to the safety of his own 
property. So through life it is God's warning voice in the 
sacred books that informs us that our house is on fire. Each 
man must, however, look to his own safety and comfort, 
here and hereafter, and expect no divine interposition in 
his favour. 

ReUgion amongst Jains who accept these views would 
therefore seem to exclude the idea of prayer for help. It 
would resolve itself into a constant recollection of the 
divine commands and warnings, and, I have no doubt, of 
appreciation of the goodness of God in having given these 
warnings for the benefit of short-sighted mortals in their 
earthly pilgrimage. Still, as few men would be content 
with such a religion, the Jains have come to regard some 
twenty-four of their own saints ^ practically as principal 
deities, and nowadays many, perhaps the major portion 
of the sect, venerate also the higher gods of the Hindu 
Pantheon. 

Whatever point of view we may take, it is still a 
matter for wonder that the impulse which set the Jain 
sadhus in motion has lasted for five-and-twenty centuries ; 
that yatisj bareheaded and barefooted, naked, or with just 
two cotton sheets to cover them, have wandered through 
India for eight months every year for two or three 
thousand years, not seldom without any reliance upon or 
even belief in God, mortifying the frail flesh, and all this 
in order to ensure a cessation of the evils of rebirth — wander- 
ing ceaselessly to attain rest and final annihilation ; wander- 
ing blamelessly, generation after generation, while dynasties 

^ It is not without interest that in this twentieth century the well- 
known surgeon. Sir Henry Thompson, has, after twenty years of study, 
arrived at much the same conclusions as my Bhabra friends, viz. that the 
omniscient and omnipotent Power which rules the universe does not interfere 
in the affairs of mankind. Only the great modern surgeon goes further still, 
affirming that the Omnipotent has left mankind without the guidance of any 
revelation whatever. — The UnTcnown God (Frederick Warne^& Co., 1902). 

^ Known as Jinas or Tirthankaras. 

149 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

have come and gone, and nations have risen, decayed, and 
vanished. 

And, while the men have taken up the task of working 
out their own emancipation, the women have not been 
backward in the same cause, but since times immemorial 
have, always in couples, wandered Hke the monks over the 
country, resting like them during the chamasa in the nunneries 
of their sect. Many of the women who join this mendi- 
cant order have no doubt done so in middle age, disillu- 
sioned and tired of life. But quite young girls also follow 
the path of asceticism. For example, I learned, on the 
very best authority, of a married girl of only sixteen years 
of age, who, having a strong religious bent, told her 
husband a short time previously that henceforth he would 
be to her as a brother — a very significant expression in the 
mouth of an Indian woman. Her husband accepted her 
decision, and with her consent arranged a second marriage. 
When the new wife arrived, the first one, prepared to 
renounce the vanities of this life, sold her jewels to the 
value of two thousand rupees, gave a feast and presents to 
the Brahmans, and, adopting the life of a Punjni, left her 
home for ever. The ceremony of entering the ascetic 
order was attended with a good deal of personal in- 
convenience. The girl's luxuriant black hair had to be 
plucked out by the roots ; not a vestige of eyebrow or 
eyelash was left. After that, she tied a cloth over her 
mouth to prevent the possible destruction of minute 
organisms, and, armed with a besom of cotton threads, 
started with some others of her sex on a round of pilgrim- 
ages or wanderings. 

I have often met these nuns on the road, and once 
quite fifty of them marshalled in order. They must have 
been coming from or returning to a nunnery in the neigh- 
bourhood. 

Sometimes the adoption of the monastic life is made 
the occasion for a special demonstration, which always 
includes a procession. The postulant, or perhaps more 
properly the novice, is decked out in the best of clothes 
and the costliest jewels, and carried through the town 
in whatever mode of conveyance he or she may select. 

150 




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ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

When the round is made, the candidate is taken to some 
appointed place, and there, after being disrobed and clad 
in the simple vestments of the order, takes the prescribed 
vows, and receives from the senior sadhii present the 
mantra of the order. The illustration (Fig. 8) represents 
such a procession in Ludhiana on the occasion of a Grihasti 
woman becoming a Jain nun or sadhui. 

The Jains are divided into two principal sub-sects — 
one called Sivetambara (white-robed), the other Digambara 
(sky-clad — i.e. naked). A yati or monk of the latter de- 
nomination does not attach any particular importance to 
the chamar (the besom) or the puttiJca (mouth veil), and is 
not permitted to carry an alms-bowl. He must receive 
his food in the palm of his hand.^ The Swetamharis and 
the Digamharis are each subdivided into four orders. The 
Jain laity belong almost exclusively to the trading com- 
munity and the Baniya caste. 

1 Hindu Castes and Sects, by Jogendra Nath Bhattacharjee, M.A., 
D.L., pp. 553-55 (Calcutta, 1896). 



151 



CHAPTER Y lU— continued 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 



Section II. — Principal Hindu Sects : Saivas, Vaishnavas, and Sikhs — 
Particulars regarding Sanyasis, Dandis, Paramahansas, Brahmacharis, 
Lingaits, and Aghoris. 



lUlfUIMJiat 




HE Hindu ascetic sects which 
make up the great bulk of the 
wandering sadhus of India, 
more particularly Northern 
India, and which I propose 
to notice as typical examples, 
are the following : — 



Saivas, 
Siva — 



or worshippers of 



1 



followers of Sankaracharya.^ 



1. Sanyasis 

2. Dandis 

3. Paramahansas 

4. Brahmacharis 

5. Lingaits, followers of Basava. 

6. Aghoris. 

7. Yogis. 

Vaishnavas, or worshippers of Vishnu — 

1. Sri Vaishnavas, followers of Ramanuja. 

2. Madhavas, followers of Madhavacharya. 

3. Ramanandis, followers of Ramanand. 

4. Kabir Panthis, followers of Kabir. 

5. Ballavacharyas, followers of Ballavacharya. 

6. Chaitanites, follov/ers of Chaitanya. 

^ Acharya means teacher, or more properly religious teacher. 

152 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

Sikhs, followers of Nanak — 

1. Udasis. 

2. Nirmalis. 

3. Nihangs or Akalis. 

The petty sects known as Dadhu Panthis, Ram Sanehis, 
and Mirabais, referred to in the last chapter, do not call for 
any further notice here. 

1. The Sanyasis.^ 

The followers of Sankara, while pajdng special honour 
to Siva, do not, as a rule, reject the other gods of the Hindu 
Pantheon, nor do they deny the truth of the Shastras 
generally. Hence the order is a rather mixed one, con- 
taining many Vaishnavas and even Tantrics. It is never- 
theless a pretentious sect, claiming that its members are 
alone the true sadhus of India, probably because the closing 
and strictly ascetic period in the lives of the " twice-born " 
castes (as laid down in Manu's ordinances) is known as the 
sanyasi stage. 

It is generally held that the Sanyasis are divided into 
ten sub-orders, the Dasnamis, named as follows : — 

(1) Giri. (6) Parvat. 

(2) Puri. (7) Sagar. 

(3) Bharti. (8) Tirath. 

(4) Ban. (9) Ashram. 

(5) Auran (Aranya). (10) Saraswati. 

But it would seem that the last three names on the list belong 
properly to the order of the dandis. 

All Hindus, even Sudras and outcasts, may join this 
order, though it is generally held that some of the 
sub-orders, such as the Ban, Auran, and Saraswati, admit 
Brahmans only. At the annual spring saturnalia low- 
caste men actually become Sanyasis temporarily during the 
continuance of the festival. At such times they undergo 

^ It would appear that in Benares the Sanyasis are commonly known 
as gosains. — Hindu Tribes and Castes as represented in Benares, by the 
Rev. M. A. Sherring, part iii. chap. ii. 

153 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

a variety of self-inflicted tortures, sucli as passing thick 
metal skewers through their tongues or the flesh of their 
arms or sides. 

Such facts prove conclusively the democratic character 
of the order and its freedom from the caste prejudices of 
Hinduism. Granting this, it was still quite startling to 
read in the Pioneer of Allahabad, early in 1899, that an 
elderly, educated, and well-to-do American lady of French 
extraction had come to India as a sanyasin under the name 
of Swami Abhayanda, having been admitted to the Puri 
sub-order by Swami Vivikananda, the Bengali sadhu who 
went to the Congress of Religions at Chicago as the 
representative of the Hindus of India. The lady, it would 
appear, had studied the Upanishads and been converted 
to the pantheistic doctrines of the Vedanta philosophy. 
" Her original intention," says the Pioneer, " was to beg 
her way through India. She had a basket for the purpose 
instead of the customary bowl. But she has been per- 
suaded to relinquish this intention. She wears a high- 
necked dress of the plainest possible cut and of a yellow 
colour." 

All Sanyasis may eat together, and the majority accept 
food from any Hindu. They may not partake of flesh 
meat or spirits. They rub ashes over their bodies, wear 
salmon-coloured robes, and a tiger skin when they can get 
one. About sect marks on the forehead they affect in- 
difference, though some paint an eye, like the central eye 
of Siva, just above the nose. All wear, as a distinguishing 
badge, a necklace of rudraksha berries, or, failing that, at 
least one such berrv. The hair of their heads, and their 
beards also, are allowed to grow freely. In their hands 
they usually carry a conch, or a pair of iron tongs — the 
latter a very useful article indeed ; for whenever they are 
seated they light a fire and proceed to smoke ganja} 

Sanyasis pointedly discard those outward symbols of 
Hinduism — the jeneu (sacred thread), and the chundi or 
shikha, a tuft of hair ordinarily worn on the crown of 
the head. 

When, after a period of probation, the postulant wishes 
^ The dried hemp-plant, used for smoking like tobacco. 




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ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

to be received as a chelay lie must bring an offering including 
a lingam and a rudraksha berry to the Sanyasi whose 
disciple he wishes to become. Four Sanyasis are required 
for the initiatory ceremony. In their presence the candi- 
date has to make a declaration of his determination 
to observe the rules of the order, to renounce the world 
and its vanities — ^in fact, to abandon all worldly affec- 
tions and desires ; for the Sanyasi, as the Bhagavad- 
gita says, is one who " does not hate and does not love 
anything." 

The chief of the four officiating Sanyasis — the selected 
guru, in fact — whispers into his ear the mantra of the order ; 
another confers a new name upon him, together with a 
surname selected from the first seven distinctive appella- 
tions of the sub-orders given on a previous page ; the third 
rubs him over with ashes ; the fourth breaks his sacred 
thread if he have one, and cuts off his scalp-lock, thus 
symbolising his complete severance from worldly life and 
ordinary Hinduism. 

After his initiation the new chela is expected to serve 
his principal guru (preceptor) for a time, in order to learn 
wisdom from him, to make certain pilgrimages, and to 
follow the rules of the order. When the period of proba- 
tion has expired, more ceremonies have to be performed, 
including the shradh, or post -funeral rites, of the new 
Sanyasi. 

The rules laid down for the guidance of the Sanyasi 
have been variously stated to me ; but the following six 
prohibitions and six commandments, as learned from one 
of the order, may be regarded as a fair specimen of the 
injunctions they are expected to observe. 

Six Prohibitions. 

1. Do not sleep on a couch, under any circumstances. 

2. Do not wear white clothes. 

3. Do not speak to or even think about women. 

4. Do not sleep during the daytime. 

5. Do not at any time ride on a horse or other animal, 

or in any vehicle whatsoever. 

6. Do not allow your mind to be agitated in any way. 

155 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Six Commandments. 

1. Leave your abode only for the sake of begging 

necessary food. 

2. Say your prayers every day. 

3. Bathe every day. 

4. Contemplate daily the likeness or image of Siva. 

5. Practise purity and cleanliness. 

6. Perform the formal worship of the gods. 

When death overtakes him the Sanyasi is buried in a 
grave like a pit, with a side receptacle in which the body 
is made to sit up facing east or north-east with its arms 
supported on a wooden rest (byragun). Sanyasis have no 
after-death or burial ceremonies, no shradh ceremonies like 
ordinary Hindus, these having been performed when the 
Sanyasi was finally admitted to the order ; and even 
the formal feasts which are given on such occasions by 
the other ascetic sects, such as Bairagis and Yogis, are 
omitted. 

One morning at about ten o'clock I overtook a strange 
procession — strange even for India — wending its way slowly 
along the Lahore Mall between the Chief Court and the 
Cathedral. A loud brass band led the way, discoursing 
music — European music, too ; for it was not difficult to 
make out the tune of the once-popular song — 

" Just before the battle, mother, 
I was thinking most of you." 

Behind the musicians came some three or four men carrying 
smoking censers of sweet incense. They were marching 
in front of a litter borne on the shoulders of a few men. 
It was a very unusual-looldng litter, the front being in 
the form of a moresque arch. There was a cloth hood 
over it, but it was open on three sides, so that the occupant 
could be plainly seen except from behind. And the occupant 
was a dead sadhu, sitting in vacant contemplation with 
his legs crossed in the approved manner. He was tied 
to the upright back of the litter and was covered with 
strings of flowers, which formed a sort of floral veil over 
his face but could not conceal the hideousness of death, 

156 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

as the unconscious head rolled helplessly from side to side, 
keeping time, in a sort of grotesque mockery, to the measured 
step of the bearers as they marched slowly along the wide 
road. 

On one side of the litter was a hired landau with some 
respectably dressed natives, who may or may not have 
been part of the procession, and on the other a slovenly 
policeman in yellow trousers and blue tunic lolling in 
a one-horse carriage known as an ekka. A little confused 
crowd, in which the female element predominated, brought 
up the rear ; while a number of urchins, stimulated by 
curiosity, accompanied the cortege and pointed out the 
dead man to one another. I ascertained that the party 
was on its way to a selected spot where the sadhu, a Sanyasi, 
would be buried in a circular grave, sitting upright and 
covered over with salt. This funeral procession brought 
to my recollection a similar one I had seen many years 
previously at Rajamundry, in the Madras Presidency. 
On that occasion the dead sadhu was placed in a sitting 
position in his grave, a quantity of salt was piled up about 
him, and earth thrown in till the body was nearly covered up. 
Then upon the top of the shaven head, still exposed to 
view, a large number of cocoanuts were broken in order 
to crack the skull and afford the imprisoned soul a means 
of exit from the now useless body. The fragments of the 
cocoanuts which had been used for the liberation of the 
dead man's soul were, I remember, eagerly sought for by 
the bystanders.^ 

It should be mentioned that the practice of burial 
rather than cremation, in the case of these and certain 
other sadhus, is due to the sentiment that the bodies of 
such sainted personages do not need to be purified by fire. 

Nearly every sadhu, however ignorant he may be of 
letters, or however regardless in practice of what are usually 
held as the essentials of a moral life, is aware of, and, on 
occasion, can parade wise maxims, instructive stories, and 
pithy parables intended to point the way to virtue or dis- 
suade from \dce. Amongst Sanyasis there is not found 

^ The funeral ceremonies of a Brahman Sanyasi are described in part ii. 
chap, xxxvi. of the Abbe Dubois' Hiyidu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies. 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

any dearth of such ethical guides ; as, for example, the so- 
called " twenty-four upa gurus " or assistant gurus of the 
famous muni Dattatreya, which I learned from the mouth 
of a Sanyasi, and which, although quaint and artless, seem 
sufficiently interesting and characteristic for partial repro- 
duction here. 

Out of the twenty-four upa gurus I select the follow- 
ing : — 

1. The Earth. — The lesson to be learned from this gur^i 
is patient endurance. As the uncomplaining earth suffers 
injuries and affronts without any sign of resentment, so 
should the sadhu be unperturbed by any ill-treatment and 
indignities he may be subjected to. 

2. The Heavens (Sky). — Into the serene sky ascend the 
glad sounds of mirth, the fierce roar of battle, the beating 
of drums, and the clash of swords ; but it retains none of 
them : the sadhu, in the midst of the turmoil of life, should, 
in like manner, retain no impression of the events about him, 
be they joyous or mournful. 

3. Fire. — As flame always tends to rise, even if the 
lighted torch be reverted, so should the aspirations of the 
sadhu always be to higher things ; and as the pure flame 
feeds indiscriminately on all sorts of fuel, the living timber 
of the forest as well as the refuse of the dung-heap, so ought 
the sadhu to accept wdllingly whatever food is given to 
him, never reflecting upon its value, nor whether it is stale 
or fresh. 

4. The Pigeons. — Dattatreya once watched a pair of 
pigeons build a nest and rear a couple of young ones. When 
the young were tolerably grown they used to make short 
excursions on the wing, but one day were ensnared by a 
fowler. The mother bird returning saw the fate of her 
brood, and in her anxiety to help them got caught in 
the net herself. Her mate, coming on the painful scene, 
lost command of himself, and seemed from his excited 
flutterings as if he too would get ensnared, and so it soon 
happened. 

Now, this incident should be a warning to the sadhu 
as to what he should not do. Family ties, however tender, 
are only transient, and should not affect him, lest they 

158 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

bring him to the unfortunate end of the miserable pigeons 
in the net of the fowler. 

5. The Ocean. — The ocean does not rise when the rivers 
flow into it, nor diminish if water be drawn from it, so the 
sadhu should not swell with pride if a number of disciples, 
attracted by his fame, gather round him ; nor, on the other 
hand, should he be concerned in the least degree if they all 
depart and leave him companionless. 

6. The Harlot. — A courtesan was sitting one evening 
decked in her best clothes waiting for a visitor. She was 
all the while wishing that someone would come to her who 
would pay her with a liberal hand. A stream of people passed 
by, but not one called in. Midnight at last arrived, and 
now the disappointed woman pondered, "If I were only 
to give as much thought to God as I do to unprofitable 
wickedness, what blessings might He not vouchsafe to 
me ! " From that moment the harlot changed her mode 
of life, and, turning from evil desires, adopted a religious 
life ; a fact from which the sadhu should learn that even 
the most depraved of mortals may seek God, and become 
entirely changed in heart. 

7. The Brahman Girl. — There was once a Brahman 
who, as required by Hindu custom, had given his daughter 
in marriage to a man of his own caste. The girl was, how- 
ever, still residing in her father's house when a member 
of her husband's family arrived unexpectedly. The child- 
wife was alone, and, having requested the visitor to be 
seated, retired modestly into the inner apartments to 
prepare some food for him. There was no flour in the 
house, so she proceeded to pound some wheat in an oklee 
(mortar). Her choorees (bangles) made a clatter as she 
pursued her labours, and she felt ashamed of thus seeming 
to attract the stranger's attention. She removed some of 
the bangles, but still the clatter went on ; she took off a 
few more, but the tinkle of the metal rings did not cease, 
until she had only one left on her wrist. Then there was 
peace and quietness. Thus it is in life. The sadhu should 
live alone if he desire serenity and contentment of mind. 

8. The Bhringhi. — This creature is said to carry dead 
insects to its nest, and then, by humming persistently 

159 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

into their ears for a day or two, to bring them back to life 
again.^ " What a lesson for the sadhu ! " thought Datta- 
treya. Surely he should, by persistent teaching, bring 
men who are dead in sin and worldliness back to God and 
spiritual life. 

2. The Dandis. 

This sect is recruited exclusively from the Brahman 
caste, yet it discards the sacred thread. It derives its name 
from the danda, or staff, which each member is required 
to carry. 

Theoretically, dandiwallahs should not settle down in 
one place for a single day, and even the danda should not 
be allowed to rest, but should be stuck erect in the ground 
or be suspended from a tree.^ In practice, however, these 
rules are neglected, and large numbers of dandis are to be 
found at any time in Benares, where an important ghdt 
or bathing place on the Ganges is named after them. The 
dandis, I have been assured, do not worship Siva, but only 
their own danda. If this be correct, the explanation is 
probably that the danda is regarded by them as the phallic 
emblem of the god. 

Dr. J. W. Bhattacharjee says the dandi is not required 
to worship any god, and that after initiation " he is supposed 

^ My inquiries respecting the very interesting insect referred to have 
not met with success. Indians have not been very careful observers of 
nature, and it appears to me that the habits of some of the solitary wasps 
may possibly have given rise to the belief which gives Dattatreya an 
opportunity for a lesson in holiness to the sndhus. These solitary wasps 
{ammophila, for example) are known to sometimes sting their prey into 
unconsciousness before carrying them to their nests to serve as food for 
the family, and it may well happen that some of these victims revive in the 
nest and might seem to have been restored to life by their captors. 

2 In regard to the danda, Sir Monier Williams in his Buddhism (Preface, 
p. xiii) says : " Finally, there is the danda or staff held in the left hand, 
and used by a Sanyasi as a defence against evil spirits, much as the done 
(or vajra) is used by Northern Buddhist monks. This mystical staff is a 
bambu with six knots, possibly symbolical of six ways {gati) or states of 
life through which it is believed that every being may have to migrate — a 
belief common to both Brahmanisra and Buddhism. The staff is called 
sudarsana (a name for Vishnu's cakra), and is daily worshipped for the 
preservation of its mysterious powers." 

1 60 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

to pass into the condition of a god, and he himself 
constantly expresses his belief in such transformation by 
repeating the Soham formula," which is Sevoham, signifying, 
" i am Siva." 

The dandis wear salmon-coloured clothes, which may 
be dyed once only. Some, however, go about the jungles 
quite naked. They are not allowed to touch fire, money, 
or metal in any form. Their food may be obtained from 
the houses of Brahmans, but they may ask for it only when 
there is no smoke or fire in the house and the grinding mill 
is still ; in other words, when the family has already taken 
its meal. The dandiwallah should not ask for food when 
anyone else, even a dog, is waiting for it. 

Initiation. — The shagird (postulant) who wishes to 
become a chela is first obliged to fast for three days, 
living only on milk. On the fourth day there is a grand 
hawan (a ceremony in which ghee and other combustible 
substances are consumed in the fire as a sacrifice to the 
gods). After this he is shaved, head and all, with the 
exception of a few hairs on the crown. Then the candidate 
has to stand waist-deep in water — a river, a tank, or any 
deep reservoir will answer the purpose. With his own 
hands the postulant then plucks out the few hairs which 
had been allowed to remain on the top of his head. His 
sacred thread is removed and burnt, the ashes thereof 
being eaten by the neophyte. While in the water he receives 
the mantra of the order from his guru or preceptor, and 
also a new name with one of the following surnames : Tirtha, 
Assama, Bharati, or Sarswati. 

When he steps out of the water he is handed a staff 
and a gourd, and is robed in five bits of salmon-coloured 
cotton cloth, one piece being wrapped round the head. 
Rules for his guidance in life are explained to him : for 
example, that he must not touch fire, may take but one 
meal a day, must get his food from the houses of Brahmans 
only, and so on. He is admonished not to possess any 
property at all, to use either a gourd or an earthen vessel 
for his water and food, and to cling to the banks of the 
Ganges. He is further enjoined to preach to the people 
and to practise virtue. 

L i6i 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Dandis as a rule bury their dead, or commit the body- 
to some sacred stream.^ 

On receiving news of the death of any relative, the 
dandiwallah, who must be fatherless and motherless, wife- 
less and childless, before he can join the sect, has only to 
bathe and to wash his clothes and danda. No further 
ceremonies or observances are required of him. 

3. P ARAMAEANS AS. 

A learned Indian Sanskritist explained to me that the 
name of this sect is derived from the words paraina, meaning 
much or great, and hansa, a certain (mythological) animal 
which can separate water from milk ; whence, as my pandit 
said, it would seem that the Paramahansa is one who can 
distinguish truth from falsehood.^ 

Sanyasis, dandis, and other ascetics who have under- 
gone a probation of usually not less than twelve years, 
may be admitted to this superior order, in which both 
Sivites and Vishnuvites merge their religious differences 
in a comprehensive self -worship, based on the presumption 
of each Paramahansa' s identity with the Divine Spirit. 

Such high pretensions have of necessity to be supported 
by some visible proof of superiority to physical discomfort 
and the weaknesses that flesh is heir to ; and so it 
happens that some members of this sect go about naked 

^ These practices would seem to be a necessary consequence of the 
strict prohibition of the use of fire by these sectaries. 

2 Ordinarily hansa means a goose, a signification which, in view of the 
pretensions of the members of the sect, may at least be noted. Kabir the 
mystic says, " The goose and the paddy bird are of one colour and frolic 
in the same pool ; the goose extracts the milk from the water, and the 
paddy bird drinks the mire." — Wilson's Sects of the Hindus, p. 55. 

A more fanciful interpretation of the word hansa is to be found in the 
following extract : — 

" In the science of breath the technical symbol for inspiration is sa, and 
for expiration ha. It is easy to see how these symbols are connected with 
the roots as and ah. The current of the life- wave spoken of above is 
technically called hansachasa, that is, the motion of ha and sa. The word 
HANSA, which is taken to mean God, and is made so much of in many 
Sanskrit works, is only a symbolic representation of the two eternal pro- 
cesses of life — ha and sa." — The Science of Breath, by Rama Prasad, M.A., 
F.T.S., London, 1890, p. 22. 

162 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

in all weathers, some affect to live without eating food of 
any kind, others observe strict silence and do not indicate 
even by a sign any physical need or suffering. There 
may be impostors among them, but honest ascetics are 
certainly not wanting ; and so great is the respect and 
admiration which the self-denial of these sadhus com- 
mands from the Hindus, that they are seldom if ever 
allowed to experience the full measure of the physical 
evils which would, in ordinary course, be attached to their 
voluntary asceticisms. 

Amongst the Paramahansas are scholars well versed 
in Sanskrit learning. These are usually to be found in 
monasteries. 

Paramahansas bury their dead, or float their bodies 
away upon some running stream. 

4. Brahmacharis. 

In the ideal scheme for the conduct of life prescribed 
by the Hindu lawgiver Manu and summarised on p. 15, 
it will be found that the period of early youth is to be 
devoted to vedic study, the student, living on alms, being 
known as a Brahmachari. But Brahmacharis of this sort 
have practically disappeared from India ; those who now 
go by the name belong either to an inferior ministering 
order created by Sankara to serve as helps and companions 
to Sanyasis and Paramahansas, or they form a class apart 
amongst the Tantric sects of Bengal. 

5. Ling AITS. 

Being strongly opposed to Brahmanism, the dis- 
tinguishing badge of this sect is a lingam fastened to 
the neck or arm by a thread which " is called the linga 
sutram, as opposed to the yajna sutram or sacred thread 
of Brahmans." ^ The mendicant monks of tlds sect, 
known as vaders, meaning masters or lords, go about 
with smaU beUs attached to their arms or carried in the 
hand to advertise their presence. They receive from the 
1 Dr. J. N. Bhattacharjee's Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 397. 

163 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

lay lAngaits the most extravagant veneration and even 
worsliip. 

The Jangamas, who are occasionally seen in Upper 
India, are stated by Dr. Bhattacharjee to be " the priestly 
Sudras of the sect." They are married men not given to 
austerities, and go about well clad, as will be seen from 
the illustrations at the commencement of the Preface 
and at p. 52 of this volume. In regard to the name 
of the sect, "it is said that, when Shiv (Siva) at his 
marriage desired to give alms to Brahmans, no Brahmans 
appeared ; the god thereupon tore open his leg (janga) and 
produced therefrom a man whom he called Jangama, to 
whom he gave his alms," ^ and this man, no doubt, was 
the father of the sect. At Kedarnath in Garwal they have 
a temple and monastery of their own. 

In Southern India, especially in the Malabar and 
Coromandel districts, the Lingaits are very numerous. 
According to the Abbe Dubois, they abstain from animal 
food, bury their dead, and " do not recognise the laws 
relating to defilements which are generally accepted by 
other castes." They practise no post-burial rites.^ 

6. Aghoris. 

Regarding the existence and practices at the present 
day of this ancient and repulsive sect, the following 
extract from a newspaper conducted entirely by Indians 
affords information : — 

" The loathsome story of a human ghoul from Patiala 
shows that the influence of the Aghorpanthi has not yet 
completely died out in this country. It is said that for 
some time past human graves have been found robbed of 
their contents, and the mystery could not be solved until 
the other day, when the poKce succeeded in arresting a 
man in the act of desecrating a child's grave some forty 
miles distant from the capital (Patiala). The ghoul not 
only did not conceal the undevoured portion of the corpse 

* Report on the Census of the Punjab, by E. D. Maclagan, I.C.S., p. 
116. 

2 Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, part i. chap. ix. 

164 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

he had with him, but told his captors the whole story of 
his gruesome career. He is a low -caste Hindu named 
Ram Nath, and is, according to a gentleman who saw him, 
* a singularly mild and respectful-looking man,' instead of 
a ' red-eyed and ravenous savage,' as he had expected to 
find him from the accounts of his disgusting propensities. 
He became an orphan at five, and fell into the hands of 
two sadhus of his own caste, who were evidently Aghor- 
panthis. They taught him to eat human flesh, which 
formed the staple of their food. The meat was procured 
from the graves in the villages they passed through. 
When Ram Nath was thoroughly educated in this taste 
the sadhus deserted him. Since then he has been living 
on human carrion only, roaming about the country like a 
hungry vulture. He cannot eat cooked food, and therefore 
gets two seers of raw meat from the State every day. It 
is also reported that Sirdar Shamshere Singh, private 
secretary to the Maharajah, has now forbidden to give him 
anything but ordinary jail food, with a view to ' reforming 
him.' The ghoul is, however, determined to starve rather 
than eat what he has not been accustomed to." ^ 

Strange as it may seem, the disgustingly repulsive 
habits of the Aghoris are a direct and legitimate, if horrible, 
outcome of a desire to push the pantheistic doctrines of 
the Vedanta philosophy to their logical conclusions in a 
certain direction. " If everything in existence is only a 
manifestation of the Universal Soul, nothing can be 
unclean ! " So argues the Aghorpanthi, and he proves 
the uncompromising sincerity of his convictions by his 
repellent acts. 

Cases, few and far between, of necrophilism, anthro- 
pophagy, and coprology are not unknown to mental 
pathologists in Europe ; but it is, perhaps, only in India 
that such perverted instincts could be made the basis of a 
religious sect. 

The Aghorpanthis can date back to a considerable 
antiquity, but, though never at any time of importance 
numerically, have not escaped the notice of Europeans in 
India. Of these cannibal sadhus, Moor, who identifies 

1 The Tribune (Lahore), 29th November 1898. 

i6s 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

them, no doubt incorrectly, with the Paramahansas, writes 
as follows in his Hindu Pantheon : — 

" However difficult it may be for an English reader to 
believe the hitherto unrecorded story of the flesh-abhorring 
Hindus, not only do other castes of the Hindus, but even 
of the Brahmins themselves, eat flesh, and one sect at 
least eat human flesh. They do not kill human subjects 
to eat, but they eat such as they find about the Ganges 
and other rivers, and near Benares they are not unusually 
seen floating down the river on a corpse, and feeding upon 
its flesh ; and the human brain is judged by these 
epicurean cannibals to be the most delicious morsel of 
their unsocial banquet. They are called Paramahansa, 
and are by no means a low despicable tribe ; but, on the 
contrary, are esteemed, at any rate by themselves, a very 
high one. Whether the exaltation be legitimate, or 
assumed by individuals in consequence of penance or 
holy and sanctified acts, I am not prepared to state ; but 
I beheve the latter, as I have known other instances where 
individuals of differing sects, by persevering in extra- 
ordinary piety, or penance, have been deemed incapable 
of sin." 

The present headquarters of the Agliorpanthis appear to 
be at Mount Abo. Some of them claim to acquire magical 
power by eating human flesh. " The fact is," says Dr. 
J. N. Bhattacharjee, " that as Brahmanism inculcated 
cleanhness and the eating of wholesome food, the Aghoris, 
who formed one of the sects setting up ' opposition shops ' 
as it were, insisted on the utmost degree of filth, and hoped 
to gain alms by horrifying the people and not by gaining 
their respect." ^ 

I am not prepared to say how much truth there may 
be in this opinion, but certainly there is no denpng that 
the Aghoris are only too successful in extorting money 
from people who have a supreme dread of them, and would 
much rather accede to their demands than see them carry 

1 Hindu Castes and Sects, pp. 393, 394. On the subject of these 
Aghor'panthis the reader may refer to Ward's Hindus, p. 296, and Mr. 
W. Crookes' Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, vol. ii. 
p. 172. 

1 66 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

out their threat of eating in their presence disgusting offal 
or foul carrion. 

Women known as Aghorinis are often associated with 
these ghouls, and are as filthy as and even more shameless 
than their male companions. 



167 



CHAPTER Y 111— continued 

Section III. — Yogis and Yoga Vidya — Yogis attracting attention in the 
West — Pliilosophico-religious Ideas underlying Yogaism — Emancipa- 
tion of the Soul the supreme Object of Hindu religious Aspiration — 
Yoga Vidya teaches how Union of the individual Soul with the All- 
Spirit may be accomplished — Details and probable Origin of the Dis- 
cipline and Practices of Yoga Vidya — The Pretensions of the modern 
Yogis — History, Customs, and Rules of the Yogi sect. 




UDGING from current literature of a 
certain class, the Yogis ^ and their 
doctrines have, in recent years, 
somehow attracted attention in botli 
Europe and America, and yoga 
teachings have come to be regarded 
as the highest expression of tran- 
scendental Hinduism. In the United 
States, notwithstanding their super- 
lative industrialism, there is a grow- 
ing class of publications in which 
prominence is given to such subjects as the rationale of 
concentration, psychic breathing, subHminal conscious- 
ness, the perception of the Self, rapport with the Uni- 
versal, and also, without disguise, the Raja Yoga system 
of India. 

The Yogi, moreover, has been accepted in the West as 
the type or representative of the religious ascetics of India. 
It is therefore very desirable that the ideas and practices 
of the Yogis should be set forth here as fully and clearly 
as may be consistent with brevity. 

Hindu philosophico- religious ideas, involved as they 

^ The Yogis are in the vernaculars of Northern India ordinarily called 
jogia. 

1 68 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

are in a tangled labyrinth of mystic speculations, present 
very serious difficulties to the student, particularly as 
there are naturally many systems of Hindu philosophy 
and, of course, a multiplicity of teachers to be reckoned 
with. Yet there are some more or less widely accepted 
fundamental notions which when stripped of confusing 
details are not beyond ordinary comprehension, and, as 
they serve to elucidate the practices of the Yogis, will now 
be noticed. At the same time, it may be added that, 
amongst the many fantastic dreams which have been 
presented to mankind as authoritative explanations of the 
universe, these Hindu speculations are not without dignity, 
beauty, and originality. 

According to the fundamental notions of Hindu 
philosophy to which I refer, every living man is made up 
of an individual soul, a subtle invisible body, and a gross 
body. The soul is of the same essence as the All-Spirit, 
although temporarily detached, as it were, from it in some 
mysterious way. It is by its nature incorruptible and 
unchanging. The subtle body {sukshma-sarira),^ however, 
is not so, and while in connection with the gross body is 
influenced, affected, and modified through the senses by the 
play of the primal forces of nature. The impressions thus 
made upon the subtle body, the dispositions engendered in 
it by the influences to which it is exposed, affect its nature, 
so that, even when separated after death from its grosser 

^ " In the Samkhj'-a-philosophy this sdJeshma-sarira appears as linga- 
sarira, or the sign-body. SthUla-sarira, or coarse., material body, consists, 
according to some Samkhya teachers, of the five or four coarse elements 
{hhiUas), according to others of the earth only, and is made up of six 
coverings — hair, blood, flesh, sinews, bones, and marrow. The subtle or 
inner body, sometimes called the vehicle or the dtivdhika- sarira, is formed 
of eighteen elements : of (1 ) Buddhi, (2) Ahamkara, (3) Manas, (4-8) the 
five Tanmitras or sdkshma-bhtltas, and (9-18)^ the ten senses. This body 
is of course invisible, but without it the coarse body would be useless. It 
forms what we should call our personality, and causes the difference in the 
characters of individuals, being itself what it has been made to be by former 
works. All fitness for reward and punishment attaches to it, not to the 
Purushas, who are all alike and unchanging, and it likewise determines by 
means of its acquired dispositions the gross bodies into which it has to enter 
from life to life, till final freedom is obtained by the Purusha ; and not only 
the gross body, but the subtle body also, is reabsorbed in Prakriti." — The 
Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, by Professor F. Max Miiller, p. 395. 

169 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

counterpart, it still retains the taint of its corporeal 
existence — tliat is to say, the affinities, proclivities, and 
tendencies developed in it during its earthly sojourn. 
Now, in the ordinary but eternal interaction of the com- 
plex forces of nature — the pranas and tativas — these 
acquired qualities bring about the reincarnation of the 
subtle invisible body along with the soul to which it is 
united. But for the soul, rebirth is a most undesirable 
event, a most terrible hardship. Escape, however, from 
this dire calamity is fortunately possible, provided the 
subtle body be only freed from the influence of the senses, 
so that it may lose all attachment to things mundane — all 
earthward tendencies, as it were. But who is to accom- 
plish this ? Who is to set the sukshma-sarira free from 
the trammels of worldly affections ? It is the soul alone 
that can do it ; it is the soul which must work out its 
own salvation. 

Before it, then, lies the task of weaning the subtle 
body completely from the hopes and fears, the affections 
and desires, of earthly life. To regain its freedom it must 
succeed in effacing the impressions made upon the subtle 
body during its earthly life, in annulling the attractions of 
carnality and destroying the forces which make for rebirth. 
It may take ages and strenuous efforts in many successive 
lives to accomplish this ; but, when it is finally attained, 
the sukshma-sarira, after the dissolution of the gross body, 
will have no tendency to return to this earth, but will be 
merged in the soul, and that again, released from every 
hampering impediment, will become reunited with the All- 
Spirit. 

A presentment of the relations of the soul, the body, 
and the Great Spirit, which evidently appeals to the peculiar 
voluptuous sentimentalism of the Bengali nature, deserves a 
passing notice — 

" The soul," says a recent writer, Babu Shishir Kumar 
Ghose, " is attached to the body, and naturally feels a 
great attraction for it. But its real partner is the Great 
Spirit of the universe. The soul of man is likened to a 
woman, whose lover is the body, but whose husband is 
the Great Soul, viz. God. But she, the soul, undutifully 

170 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

forsakes her wedded husband and cleaves to Iter gallant, 
the body. The object of the practice of yoga is to detach 
the woman (the human soul) from her lover (the human 
body), reunite her with her lawful husband, the Great Soul, 
Brahma, or the Great Spirit. ... 

" One way of attempting to detach a faithless woman 
from her lover is to reason with her; another way is to 
make her gallant disagreeable to her. The Advaitahadees 
follow the methods mentioned just now, in order to detach 
the soul (woman) from her gallant, the body. (1) They 
reason with their souls ^ and persuade them to beheve that 
their undue attraction for the body cannot conduce to 
their happiness, for the body does not endure for ever. 
And (2) they practise all sorts of mortifications upon their 
bodies, and thereby prevent the soul to derive any pleasure 
from its union therewith. The soul, thus driven to detach 
herself from the body, is slowly and gradually led towards 
the Great Spirit, for the purpose of being united 
thereto." 

The accomplishment of the supreme object of Hindu 
religious aspiration, as explained in the foregoing para- 
graphs, may give occupation to the soul in many successive 
transitory lives ; but if a struggle in the right direction 
be steadily maintained in any one Kfe here below, it 
makes the task in succeeding lives all the easier, since 
the tendencies cultivated in one embodied existence are 
more easily trained in the next one, and so on, till they 
are finally established. 

Evidently the endeavour towards perfection, that is, 
towards the emancipation of the soul, involves the 
cultivation of apathy (vairagya), with the crushing out of 
all human affections, desires, and lusts, and the complete 
detachment of the mind from all earthly things. 

This conclusion gives us the key to much of the 
higher rehgious ideas of the Hindus, and also makes 

^ " They reason with their souls ! " There is a queer confusion of ideas 
here, a new third party intervening between the soul and the body to 
reason with and persuade the former. Yet the above extract is not with- 
out value, illustrating as it does the very sensuous imagery by which alone 
even philosophical doctrines can be brought home to the comprehension 
of minds steeped in the ideas of the Sakta worshippers. 

171 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

intelKgible their universally accepted doctrine of karma, 
according to which, as explained in a previous chapter, all 
actions good or bad must bear their fruit at some time or 
other in the present or in future lives ; a doctrine which 
certainly makes for morahty, and accounts intelligibly 
for the striking and apparently unjust inequalities which 
human society and individual history present. 

After the foregoing explanation, it will be easily 
understood that everyone desirous of effecting the final 
emancipation of his soul and its reabsorption into the 
All-Spirit should follow practices calculated to wean the 
mind from the distractions and seductions of its earthly 
environment. 

These general principles being accepted, some eager 
minds impatient of delays, some emotional natures in 
love with the Infinite, have deemed it possible to effect 
a mystical union between the individual soul and the 
All-Spirit, even while the former is imprisoned in its corporeal 
frame ; and for the attainment of this, the highest of 
desirable objects, is the system devised by Patau jali and 
accepted as authoritative by the Yogis. 

The word yoga means union, and first occurs in 
the later Upanishads.^ Yoga Vidya is a complex system 
of philosophical doctrines and practical exercises for 
promoting or effecting union between the individual soul 
and the All-Spirit. 

" As described by Svamin Rama-Krishnananda in the 
Brahmavadin, p. 511 seq., it consists, as practised at 
present, of four kinds : Mantra, Laya, Raja, and Hatha- 
yoga. Mantra-yoga consists in repeating a certain word 
again and again, particularly a word expressive of deity, 
and concentrating all one's thoughts on it. Laya-yoga 
is the consecrating all one's thoughts on a thing or the 
idea of a thing, so that we become almost one with it. 
Here again the ideal image of a god, or names expressive 
of the Godhead, are the best, as producing absorption in 
God. Rdja-yoga consists in controlling the breath so as 
to control the mind. It was observed that when fixing 
our attention suddenly on anything new we hold our 

^ Weber's Indian Literature, p. 239. 
172 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

breath, and it was supposed, therefore, that concentration 
of the mind would be sure to follow the holding back of 
the breath, or the prdndydma. Hatha-yoga is concerned 
with the general health of the body, and is supposed to 
produce concentration by certain postures of the body, 
by fixing the eyes on one point, particularly the tip of the 
nose, and similar contrivances." ^ 

Yogi properly means one who practises yoga with the 
object of uniting or blending his soul with the Divine 
Spirit or World-Soul. 

Very curiously, however, the practice of ijoga is not 
undertaken by all Yogis, nor is it confined to the professed 
Yogi. The efiicacy of the system is an article of faith so 
universally accepted throughout India, that other sectarians, 
including laymen, even married men and householders, 
resort to it when so inclined, and it may be added that 
the founder even of the quite recent theistic sect known 
as the Brahmo Samaj, Babu Keshab Chundra Sen, practised 
yoga. 

Now union with the All-Spirit, if accomplished by any 
individual soul, must surely enhance its susceptibilities 
and powers. Hence, as I have explained in another 
book, the Yogis naturally claim, and the Hindu world 
readily concedes to them, a far-reaching knowledge of the 
secrets of nature and almost unlimited sway over men 
and natural phenomena.^ 

" When this mystic union is effected," says Professor 
H. H. Wilson, " the Yogi is liberated in his living body 
from the clog of material incumbrance, and acquires an 
entire command over all worldly substance. He can 
make himself lighter than the lightest substances, heavier 
than the heaviest ; can become as vast or as minute as he 
pleases, can traverse all space, can animate any dead body 
by transferring his spirit into it from his own frame, can 
render himself invisible, can attain all objects, become 
equally acquainted with the past, present, and future, and is 
finally united with Siva, and consequently exempted from 
being born again upon earth. The superhuman faculties 

^ Professor Max Miiller's The Life and Sayings of Bamakrishna, p. 8. 
2 Indian Life, Rdigious and Social (T. Fisher Unwin, London). 

^7Z 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

are acquired, in various degrees, according to the greater 
or less perfection with which the initiatory processes have 
been performed." ^ 

A recent Indian exponent of Rdja-yoga has summed 
up the object of the system in the following comprehensive 
statement : " The Yogi proposes to himself no less a task 
than to master the whole universe, to control the whole 
of nature." ^ 

Every Yogi does not set up for being a thaumaturgist, 
since such a pretension might easily be tested to the 
confusion of the pretender. The claim and the concession 
are rather in favour of the system and of any who act 
up to its rules. There are, however, some sceptics who 
maintain that " yoga cannot be effective in this kali yuga, 
or age of sin." ^ 

The apparent origin and development of the practical 
system or method of the Yogis is deserving of attention. 
Starting from that obviously most important vital function, 
respiration, some Hindu sages appear to have observed 
and reasoned somewhat in the following way. The air 
inhaled is evidently the life, or at least contains the 
vital principle in some subtle form ; for deprivation of 
air means death, and with the last expiration the living 
body becomes a corpse. Now this air penetrates the 
corporeal frame, and is easily discoverable in the chest, 
the stomach, the bowels, and elsewhere. But this life- 
breath is apparently not stagnant. It possesses some sort 
of motion, being drawn into the chest through the nostrils 
and exhaled through the same apertures. Some of the 
larger and more ob\dous structural details of the lungs with 
its branching tubes may have been noticed, and possibly 
also the chambers of the heart with the great connected 
vessels suggesting channels for the movements of prana, 
the vital air, and of centres for its concentration. 

Reflecting, in their own peculiar way, on the mysterious 
process of respiration, which was supposed to be a law of 

1 Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus y p. 131. 

2 Rdja-yoga. Lectures by Swami Vivekananda, p. 11 (Longmans & 
Co., London). 

2 Hindu Castes and Sects, by Dr. J. N. Bhattacharjee, p. 402. 

174 



( 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

t'le entire universe, on the undoubted presence of air in 
many parts of the body, and on the meagre stock of 
anatomical facts known to them, — possibly also guided by 
some dim conception of fluid circulation in the body, — the 
founders of Yogaism have concluded and taught that along 
with the air the primal forces of nature, represented by 
subtle ethers, circulate in the human body in a multitude 
of \^essels (nadis) springing from the navel. 

The uses and functions of these imaginary nadis con- 
veying the subtle ethers through the material system are, 
as sve might expect, confidently, if somewhat indefinitely, 
described. If we are to believe these purely speculative 
anatomists, the nadis divide and subdivide as they pro- 
ceed, till the sum-total of them, of different degrees of 
magnitude, number just 72,000. According to other 
equally competent authorities, the number of these nadis 
com-os up to 727,210,201, and they have their root in the 
heart and not the navel. Intersecting at various points, 
these ramifying vessels form plexuses known as padmas 
or kamalas (lotuses), which act as centres of force for the 
performance of the physiological functions. Centres of 
/moral and intellectual powers also exist in the system. 

Thus we read in the Vishram-opnishat — 

''1. While the mind rests in the eastern portion (or 

petal), which is white in colour, then it is inclined towards 

patience, generosity, reverence. 

" 2. While the mind rests in the south-eastern portion, 

whicl is red in colour, then it is incHned towards sleep, 
tc-^rpor, and evil inchnation." ^ 

Upon this foundation of pure assumption is built a 
science for regulating and guiding the currents of the pranas 
and tatwas at will, along the multitudinous nadis of the 
hum -an organism, so that they might produce the least 
harm ful effects upon the mind, minimise the evil done by 
the fact of the soul and the subtle body being sojourners 
in a fleshy tenement, and thus bring the soul to a reahsa- 
tioi 1 of Self ; or, in other words, to perceive its identity with 
the J Supreme Self.^ 

^ The Science of Breath, by Rama Prashad, M.A., pp. 42, 43. 
2 ]V[ax Muller's Ramakrishna, p. 46. 

175 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

The practices actually described in conformity with th ■ 
science above referred to for the attainment of samadhi ^ 
are such as tend to abstract the mind entirely from sur- 
rounding objects or events, favouring thereby a condition 
of self-hypnotism or trance. 

With what insight the exercises have been devised by 
the adepts who prescribed them will be apparent when it 
is stated that these involve long- continued suppressions of 
the breath, and the performance of the functions of respira- 
tion by peculiar and minutely prescribed modes of inspira- 
tion and expiration through the right and left nostrrls 
respectively ; that they include posturing in no less tnan 
eighty-four different attitudes ; also the frequent, even 
millionfold, mental repetition of the mystic syllable om, 
the prolonged concentration of visual attention on near 
objects — for example, the navel or the tip of the nose — 
combined with an equally severe strain imposed upon the 
auditory nerves in protracted efforts to listen to sounds in 
the ears themselves. 

Then there is meditation, the nature of which may be 
illustrated by the following example : — 

" Imagine a lotus upon the top of the head, several 
inches up, and virtue as its centre, the stalk as knowledge. 
The eight petals of the lotus are the eight powers of the 
Yogi. Inside the stamens and pistils are renunciation. 
If the Yogi refuses the external powers he will come to 
salvation. So the eight petals of the lotus are the eight 
powers, but the internal stamens and pistils art the 
extreme renunciation of all these. Inside of that lotr^s 
think of the Golden One, the Almighty, the Intangible, He 
whose name is Om, the Inexpressible, surrounded with 
effulgent light. Meditate on that." ^ 

There is no reason to deny that by such meditati' ons, 
and by the practices referred to above, carried ou t in 
soHtude, a state of self-hypnotisation might be attain ed, 

^ In Professor Max Muller's Indian Philosophy (p. 141) samadh i is 
defined as " meditative absorption." According to Swami Vivekanai ida, 
it means super-consciousness. By Sir Monier Williams it is used as th e 
equivalent of trance. 

'^ Rdja-yoga, by Swami Vivekananda, pp. 91, 92. 

176 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

dth mental hallucinations more or less permanent/ and 
that even an ecstatic state might be induced. Now ecstasy, 
particularly religious ecstasy, is a well-known phenomenon, 
and is associated with many Christian saints : as St. 
Theresa, St. PhiHp of Neri, and others. It means such 
? suspension of consciousness as to cause obhteration, tem- 
porarily, of all sense relations with the material world, and 
is iccompanied with beatific visions in which pain is 
curDusly blended with unutterable bliss. 

''VTiat modern science has to say in elucidation of 
ect^asy may be judged from the following extract from 
r)r. Max Nordau's well-known work Degeneration, and 
suJi light as it throws upon the subject will doubtless 
be ^ welcome to the reader in connection with the claims 
which we are now considering of the disciples of Yoga 
Vidya. 

" '".'he degree of exclusiveness and insistence in the 
prf ..ominance of any presentation is in proportion to 
the degree of morbid irritabihty in the particular tract of 
brain by which it is elaborated. Where the degree is not 
excessive, there arise obsessions which the consciousness 
recognises as morbid. They do not preclude the coexist- 
ence of healthy functioning of the brain, and consciousness 
acquires the habit of treating these coexistent obsessions 
as foreign to itself, and of banishing them from. its presen- 
tations and judgments. In aggravated cases these obses- 
sions grow into fixed ideas. The immoderately excitable 
portions of the brain work out their ideas with such 
livel'ness that consciousness is filled with them, and can 
no longer distinguish them from such as are the result of 
senee-impressions, the nature and strength of which they 
acci rately reflect. Then we reach the stage of hallucina- 
tions and dehrium. Finally, in the last stage, comes 
ecstasy, which Ribot calls ' the acute form of the effort 

^ Amongst the weird tales of Edgar Allan Poe is one entitled " Berenice." 
in .v^hich the unhappy mental disorder associated with the habit of attentive 
and continuous contemplation of some trifling object or unimportant subject 
leacis to consequences replete with the most painful horror. This strange 
strjry, displaying rare insight into a certain unhealthy phase of mental 
fictivity, is aptly suggestive of the abnormal results which certain Yogi 
practices must often lead to. 

M 177 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

after unity of consciousness.' In ecstasy the excited par 
of the brain works with such violence that it suppresses 
the functioning of all the rest of the brain. The ecstatic 
subject is completely insensible to external stimuli. 
There is no perception, no representation, no grouping of 
presentations into concepts, and of concepts into judgments 
and reasoning. A single presentation or group of presenta- 
tions fills up consciousness. These presentations are of 
extreme distinctness and clearness. Consciousness is, as 
it were, flooded with the blinding hght of mid-day. Tiere 
therefore takes place exactly the reverse of what has bt/3n 
noticed in the case of the ordinary mystic. The ecsta+^'c 
state is associated with extremely intense emotions in 
which the highest bliss is mixed with pain. Ihese 
emotions accompany every strong and excessive function- 
ing of the nerve -cells, every extraordinary and violent 
decomposition of nerve-nutriment. The feehng of volup- 
tuousness is an example of the phenomena accompan^'ing 
extraordinary decompositions in a nerve-cell. In healthy 
persons the sexual nerve-centres are the only ones which, 
conformably with their functions, are so differentiated and 
so adapted that they exercise no uniform or lasting activity, 
but, for by far the greatest part of the time, are perfect!} 
tranquil, storing up large quantities of nutriment, in order, 
during very short periods, to decompose this suddenly and, 
as it were, explosively. Every nerve-centre which operates 
in this way would procure us voluptuous emotion ; but 
precisely among healthy persons there are, except the 
sexual nerve-centres, none which are compelled to act in 
this manner, in order to serve the purpose of the organism. 
Among the degenerate, on the contrary, particular morbidly 
excited brain-centres operate in this way, and the emo ions 
of dehght which accompany their explosive activity are 
more powerful than sexual feelings, in proportion as the 
brain-centres are more sensitive than the subordinate and 
more sluggish spinal centres. One may completely be- 
lieve the assurances of great ecstatics, such as St. Theresa, 
a Mohammed, an Ignatius Loyola, that the bliss accompany- 
ing their ecstatic visions is unlike anything earthly, and 
almost more than a mortal can bear. This latter state- 

178 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

ment proves that they were^conscious of the sharp pain 
which accompanies nerve-action in over-excited brain-cells, 
and which, on careful analysis, may be distinguished in 
every very strong feeling of pleasure. The circumstance 
that the only normal organic sensation known to us which 
resembles that of ecstasy is the sexual feehng, explains 
the fact that ecstatics connect their ecstatic presentations 
by way of association with the idea of love, and describe 
the ecstasy itself as a kind of supernatural act of love, as 
a union of an ineffably high and pure sort with God or the 
Blessed Virgin. This drawing near to God and the saints 
is the natural result of a religious training, which begets 
the habit of looking on everything inexplicable as super- 
natural, and of bringing it into connection with the doctrines 
of faith." 1 

Taking all the facts into consideration, I should be 
incKned to conclude that from a remote past many of the 
phenomena now classed under the general term hypnotism 
were known to the Indians, and that the more ardent 
emotional religionists amongst them, stimulated by powerful 
neurotic impulses, experienced, more frequently perhaps 
than in other lands, the indescribable joys of the ecstatic 
state, and lost themselves — lost their very identity — ^in 
the marvellous world conjured up in their trance-visions. 
Once discovered, once experienced, these mysteries, and 
these strange voluptuous enjoyments, would be so peculiarly 
congenial with the character and psychology of the Indians, 
that the more emotional amongst them would be power- 
fully attracted towards these occult phenomena. In their 
ardour to gain admittance to the unknown world, whose 
echoes reached them, eager men would set themselves the 
task of systematically overcoming the intervening obstacles, 
and out of such strivings, doubtless; arose the science of 
Yoga Yidya. If in ecstasy the Christian saint believed 
himself to be in mysterious communion with Christ or the 
Virgin, it is only natural, and in accordance with his 
behefs, that the pantheistic Hindu, when he reached the 
state in which he became " insensible to external stimuli," 

'^ Degeneration, hy Max Nordau, pp. 63, 64 (William Heinemann, 
London, 1895). 

179 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

should, in the inner glorious world of his own imaginings, 
-find himself (that is, his own soul) in complete union with 
the Universal Spirit. 

Thus far, at any rate, Yogaism is quite intelUgible ; 
but the pretensions of the Yogis to superhuman power 
have no justification whatever, and have for ages been a 
fertile source of profitable imposture most detrimental to 
the healthy development of the Indian people.^ 

Since all religions, philosophies, and sciences which 
have secured wide acceptance, need for their continual 
existence in each succeeding age to be interpreted as far 
as possible up to the level of the new ideas and increased 
knowledge of the times, we may expect that the same 
service has been performed for Yoga Vidya, 

What can be done by an ardent advocate to explain, 
in the phraseology, and by the light of modern scientific 
facts and theories, the extremely crude and visionary 
notions of the Yogis, may be learned by a perusal of the 
lectures of Swami Vivekananda on Bdja-yoga, delivered at 
New York in 1895-96.2 

In these lectures are given, with the aid of the modern 
conceptions of vibrations, wave motions, electrical currents, 
and so forth, a statement of the rationale of Yoga Vidya, 
which is ingenious if not convincing. In this contem- 
porary elucidation of yoga science we find the Susumna 
nadi identified with the spinal cord, and that the two 
other most important organs of the body are the brain 
(sahasrdra, the thousand-petalled) and the mulddhdra 
plexus, the latter triangular in form and situated at the 
base of the vertebral column, being the seat of the 
kundalini, a mysterious reservoir of pent-up force, which 
is thus defined : " the coiled up, the sleeping Divine power 
in all beings." The aim and object of all the yoga 
practices is, according to the Swami, to successfully tap 
this reserve of force, through the susumna (which is 
naturally closed and can be opened by the Yogis only), 

^ In another book I have described the complete discomfiture and 
exposure, to my knowledge, of one of these Yogi pretenders to super- 
natural power, — Indian Life, Religious and Social, pp. 36-41. 

2 Longmans & Co., London. 

i8o 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

causing tlie stored-up energy of the kundalini, thus set 
free by the Yogis* practices, to flow into the brain. When 
this difficult feat is accomplished, samddhi, or a super- 
conscious state, is reached, in which " no more will you 
need to go to books for knowledge ; your own mind will 
have become your book containing infinite knowledge." 

However edifying Swami-ji's explanations may be, it 
is, to say the least, rather curious that the Yogi should 
derive his transcendent enlightenment from an organ in the 
neighbourhood of the coccygeals. 

Leaving these purely imaginary anatomical and physio- 
logical details, we may profitably tui*n our attention to a 
consideration of the actual results of the working of the 
system, known as Yoga Vidya, and in doing so shall find 
that however profound may be the desire of the Yogi for 
the union of his soul, hereafter or in the present life, 
with the xill-Spirit, his own nature craves importunately 
for advantages less remote, less transcendent, and, in 
response to this desire, the " science of breath," i.e. the 
regulation of the circulation of the pranas and tatwas, has, 
in the hands of the teachers, resulted in the usual childish 
developments and gross irrationalities of which Hinduism 
affords such ample evidence. 

"20. A knowledge more secret than the science of 
breath, wealth more useful than the science of breath, 
was never seen or heard of. 

"21. An enemy is killed during the power of the 
breath, and also friends are brought together ; wealth is 
got during the power of breath, and comfort and reputation 
during the same. 

"52. Any charity given by the wise while the breath 
is in the left nostril, multiplies krores upon krores ^ of 
times in this world. 

"53. Let the Yogi look into his face, with one mind 
and with attention, and thus let him know entirely the 
motion of the sun ^ and the moon.^ 

^ A krore equals ten millions. 

2 The sun and moon here referred to are certain subtle currents in the 
human body influenced by the luminaries named, and are also referred to 
as positive and negative. 

i8i 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

" 54. Let him meditate upon the tatwa when the 
prana is calm, never when it is disturbed ; his desire 
will be fulfilled, and he will have great benefit and 
victory. 

"55. To^ those men who practise, and thus always keep 
the sun and moon in proper order, knowledge of the past 
and the future becomes as easy as if they were in their 
hand. 

" 225. In distant warfare the moon is victorious, in 
near places the sun. When the foot raised first in 
going belongs to the flowing nadi, complete success is 
the result. 

" 226. In beginning a journey, in marriage, in entering 
any town, etc., in all auspicious acts, the flow of the moon 
is good. 

" 227. Putting the enemy's army towards the empty 
nadi, and one's own towards the full, when the tatwa is 
congenial, one might conquer the whole world. 

" 228. Let me give battle in the direction towards 
which the breath flows, victory is certain even if Indra 
be in front. 

" 306. Going to a lonely place and standing with the 
back towards the sun, let a man look with attention into 
the neck of the shade he throws on the ground. 

" 307. Let him see this for as long a time as he can 
calmly repeat the words, ' Om Kram parahrahman namah,^ 
for 108 times. Then let him look up into the sky. He 
will thus see Shankara (the figure of a being capable of 
appearing in many colours).^ 

" 308. By doing this for six months, the Yogi becomes 
the lord of those who walk on earth ; by two years he 
becomes absolutely independent and his own master. 

" 309. He obtains the knowledge of the three times 
and great bliss. There is nothing impossible for the 
constant practiser of yoga. 

" 328. When the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears are stopped 
by the fingers, the tatwas begin to take their rise before 
the eyes. 

^ This point has been referred to in my Indian Life, Religioiis and 
Social, pp. 41, 42. 

182 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

" 329. He who knows their colour, their motion, their 
taste, their places, and their signs, become in this world 
equal to Rudra.^^ 

These extracts from a book entitled The Science of 
Breath and the Philosophy of the Tatwas} are, I fancy, 
quite as much as, if not more than, the patience of 
ordinary readers can endure, and they are certainly 
amply sufficient to illustrate how even the finest 
speculations of the Hindu mind — those, for example, with 
which we commenced this chapter — may become, in prac- 
tice, mere fatuous puerilities. 

The superhuman power claimed by the modern Yogi 
who dares to court public attention is naturally something 
very limited, indeed modesty itself, when compared with 
the pretensions of the sect as a whole. The following 
few instances will probably satisfy the curiosity of the 
reader on this subject. 

In his Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, 
Professor H. H. Wilson quotes from the Asiatic Monthly 
Journal for March 1829 an instance of a Madras Yogi 
who used to give exhibitions of what was described as 
" sitting in the air," and, as already stated in Chap. III., 
Dr. Honigberger furnishes authentic details of the burial, 
without any harmful results, for no less than forty days 
of a Yogi at Lahore in the time of Maharajah Ranjit 
Singh.2 What stories circulate in India at the present 
day about Yogis and their doings will be understood from 
the following extract from an Indian newspaper : — 

" Great excitement is being caused amongst the simple 
hill folk in some of the villages to the south of Simla by 
a certain wandering Yogi. The man's last reported feat 
is really something beyond the ordinary. He is said to 
have burnt himself alive on a large pyre in front of a whole 
wondering village, and then ten days later to have appeared 
in the same village alive and unhurt. The hill people 
firmly believe this story, which they say must be true, 
as the Yogi can give them a detailed account of the 

^ Translated from the Sanskrit by Rama Prasad, M.A. 
2 Thirty -five Years in the East, by Dr. Honigberger, Physician to the 
Court of Lahore, pp. 126-130, London, 1852. 

183 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

topography of heaven. This, of course, settles the matter. 
It is manifestly impossible for any man to describe heaven 
unless he has been there to see." ^ 

The instances above cited were all public performances ; 
and 1 may add that Yogis have always been given, more 
than other Hindu sectarians, to exhibitions intended to 
impress the people and win their admiration. 

So strong has this tendency been that it will be 
within the memory of many, that, as mentioned in 
a previous chapter, a few years ago a Punjabi, one Bava 
Lachman Das, professing to be a Yogi, gave a number 
of exhibitions at the Westminster Aquarium of his 
wonderful skill as a posturist, eliciting a good deal of 
attention on account of the strange and seemingly im- 
possible feats he performed in contorting his arms and 
legs into most grotesque and unnatural positions. 

We have thus far considered the doctrines and pre- 
tensions of the Yogis ; it remains now to give some par- 
ticulars about the origin and working of the sect as such. 
Of the Yogi sect as it now exists one Mahandranath was 
probably the real founder, though the fame of his disciple 
Goraknath, who is identified with Siva himself, has 
eclipsed that of the master. Of Goraknath nothing 
authentic is known, though his name is associated with 
legends dating from a remote past to comparatively 
modern times.^ 

1 Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, May 1895. 

2 " And here mention may be made of a modern deified Hindu teacher 
or sage, named Gorakh-Xath, who is said to have gone from India into 
Nepal, and is worshipped there as well as at Gorakh-poor and throughout 
the Punjab. Very little is known about him, and he belongs more to 
Hinduism than to Buddhism. Some say that he was a contemporary of 
Kabir (1488-1512), and, according to a JanamsdTclii, he once had an 
interview with Nanak, the founder of the Sikh sect. Such legendary 
accounts as are current are wrapped in much mystery. One legend 
describes him as born from a lotus. Others describe him as the third 
or fourth in a series of Saiva teachers, and the founder of the Kanphata sect 
of Yogis. The remarkable thing about him is that he succeeded in achieving 
an extraordinary degree of popularity among Northern Hindus and among 
some adherents of Buddhism in Nepal. His tomb is in the Punjab, and 
he is to this day adored as a kind of god by immense numbers of the 
inhabitants of North- Western India under the hills." — Sir Monier Williams' 
Buddhism, pp. 193, 194. 

184 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

" The most flourishing epoch of the Samkhya-yoga 
belongs," says Professor Weber, " most probably to the 
first centuries of our era, the influence it exercised upon 
the development of Gnosticism in Asia Minor being un- 
mistakable ; while further, both through this channel and 
afterwards directly also, it had an important influence 
upon the growth of the Sufi philosophy."^ 

The Yogis as we find them at the present time pay 
especial respect to Siva, who is regarded by some of them 
as the first Yogi, and they also honour Bhairon or Bhairava, 
a god or demigod, usually represented pictorially with 
a club in one hand, a bottle in the other, and a dog in 
attendance at his heels. Members of all castes mav 
become Yogis, There are several sub -orders, but the 
more prominent of these appear to be the Jogeeshurs 
or Kanphatis and the Augars or Oghars. All Yogis wear 
rosaries of rudraksha berries. They eat meat, and drink 
ardent spirits ; it is indeed required of them to do so, and 
the result, in many cases, is the formation of habits of 
inebriety. Yogis, when clothed at all, wear orange-yellow 
garments. They have their hair plaited with threads 
of black wool, and coiled on the top of the head. They 
do not cremate, but bury their dead in a sitting posture 
facing the north. The Kanphatis wear ear-rings (mundra), 
often huge ones, made of jade, glass, or even wood, by 
which token they may be readily recognised. Their 
sect-names end in ndth. 

The Augars or Oghars, whose sect-names end in dds, 
are usually recruited from the lowest castes, and do not 
seem to command the respect of the people. The Augar 
does not wear ear-rings, but usually carries a nddh or 
small wooden pipe suspended from his neck by a black 
thread. This pipe he sounds in the morning and in the 
evening, and also before eating or drinldng anything. 
Yogis often keep dogs. 

A Yogi is shown in the illustration. Fig. 10, lightly 
clad, smeared with ashes, and wearing the nddh suspended 
from his neck. Besides the gods Siva and Bhairava, 
Yogis pay especial honour to nine ndths or immortal 

^ Indian Literature, p. 239. 

i85 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

saints, wlio dwell at ease in the inaccessible fastnesses 
of the Himalayas. Their names are — 

1. Gorakniith. 6. Gopinath. 

2. Machandernath. 7. Prannath. 

3. Charputnath. 8. Surathnath. 

4. Mangalnath. 9. Chambanath. 

5. Ghugonath. 

They also hold in special veneration eighty -four Siddhas 
or perfect Yogis, some of whom are beheved to be still 
upon the earth. " The distinctive emblem of the Siddha 
worshippers is a silver singhi or cyhndrical ornament 
worn on a thread round the neck." ^ 

Yoga, with its practices and pretensions, has recently 
been attracting attention outside India, and the Ndths 
and Siddhas just referred to, the immortal men-gods of 
the Yogis, have probably been the prototypes of the 
wonderful Mahatmas of certain European and American 
theosophists of our day. 

There is no denying the fact that yoga is practised 
by many earnest men of unquestionably high character, 
yet, unfortunately, it cannot be affirmed of a majority of 
the twentieth-century Yogis, who in the guise of ascetics 
peregrinate the country, living on the pious creduHty of 
the masses, that they are anything better than ignorant 
worthless impostors, and even dangerous characters. 

* Census Report of the Punjab, 1891, by E. D. Maclagan, I.C.S., p. 115. 



1 86 




oo 

1-» 

« 

*-» 
o 






o 






CHAPTER Ylll— continued 




Section IV. — Vaisbnava Sects : Sri Vaishnayas, Madhavas, Ramanandis, 
Kabir Panthis, Ballavacharyas, and Chaitanites. 

HE sects now to be noticed all 
devote themselves specially to 
the worship of Vishnu, but differ 
from one another primarily in 
paying adoration to him in his 
human incarnations either as 
Ramachandra or as Krishna. As 
a rule they are all vegetarians, 
and abstain from spirits. 

Rama worshippers may or 
may not associate his consort 
Sita with their god. Krishna worshippers usually adore 
his consorts, or his mistress Radha, along with their 
chosen deity. 

1. The Sri Vaishnavas, as followers of Ramanuja 
are called because they worship Sri or Lakshmi as the 
consort of Vishnu, are found almost exclusively in the 
Deccan, where they have flourishing monastic establish- 
ments. 

The most marked peculiarity of these sectarians is 
their scrupulousness in regard to food. Nothing must 
be eaten by a Ramanujite that has- not been prepared by 
himself and in strict privacy. When actually taking his 
meal, the householder of this sect must be clad either in 
woollen or silk but not cotton garments. There are two 
sub-sects, the Vadagalas and the Tengalas. On the fore- 
head the Ramanujas have painted certain white lines, 
which in the case of Vadagalas resemble a W, in that of 

187 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the Tengalas a Y. They also paint a red streak up 
and down between the white lines. Members of this 
sect also adorn themselves with patches of gopi-chandana 
and red lines on the breast and arms. These patches 
are intended to represent the conch, discus, club, and 
lotus, emblems of Vishnu, while the red line stands for 
Sri, or Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu. 

Not uncommonly, members of both sexes have these 
emblems branded on their persons with red-hot metal 
stamps. 

The necklaces and rosaries of the mendicant orders 
are made of tulasi wood or of lotus seeds, their robes are 
dved of a reddish colour. Some call themselves dandis, 
and habitually carry a staff, but, unlike the Sivite 
dandis already described, they do not throw off the sacred 
thread. 

2. Madhavas. — This sect, founded, as already stated, by 
Madhavacharya (a.d. 1199-1278), is confined to Southern 
India. The monks are celibates, and live in monasteries. 
They wear a single orange-coloured wrapper. Like the 
Sivite dandis, they discard the sacred thread, carry a 
staff and a water-pot, and shave their heads. They also 
brand upon their breasts and arms the symbols of Vishnu, 
The sect mark on the forehead is composed of two 
perpendicular lines painted with gopi-chandana, and one 
black line between them traced with the charcoal of 
incense burnt before the image of Vishnu. The black 
line terminates in a round yellow spot of turmeric. All 
castes may be admitted to this sect, but their gurus or 
preceptors are always Brahmans. 

3. The Ramanandis. — This flourishing Vishnuvite sect, 
which is spread all over Northern India, is known also 
under the name of Ramaivat or Ramat. It was founded 
by Ramanand somewhere about the end of the fourteenth 
or beginning of the fifteenth century.^ 

All Ramanandis bear on their foreheads the distinguish- 
ing Vishnu sect mark, the trifala, which consists of three 

^ Professor H. H. Wilson, Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, 
p. 31. 

i88 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

upright lines — the centre one red, and the side ones 
white. They also wear necklaces and rosaries of tulasi 
beads. 

The Ramanandis have large and wealthy monasteries 
in Upper India. There are four sub-sects or orders, all 
celibate. (1) Achari, (2) Sanyasi,^ (3) Khaki, (4) Bairagi, 
The Acharis wear silken and woollen garments, the Sanyasis 
salmon-coloured cotton clothes, while the Khakis usually 
go about naked, their bodies powdered with dust and ashes 
and their hair and nails undipped. The Bairagis are 
probably the most numerous order of this sect ; their name 
is commonly applied to all Vishiiuvite mendicants, hence 
they seem to deserve special notice. 

The name is derived from bai, without, and rdg, attach- 
ment, i.e. without attachment to the world, and is appHed 
even to the Bengali followers of Chaitanya.^ 

Hindus of all castes are permitted to become Bairagis, 
and, as a matter of fact, the sect is recruited from all castes, 
including the Brahmans. Evidently, Ramanand's sectarian 
movement was one opposed to, and no doubt intended to 
be subversive of, the established, rigid, and immemorial caste 
system. 

Bairagis do not wear coloured clothes, they allow their 
hair to grow long, and paint upon their foreheads the 
trifala, consisting of three upright lines radiating slightly 
from the top of the nose, the central line being of a red 
colour, and the other two white or yellow. As stated in 
a previous chapter, the central red line is said to typify 
Vishnu, the lines on the left and right respectively 
Brahma and Siva. Bairagis wear necklaces and carry 
rosaries of basil (tulasi) beads. They do not eat meat or 
drink spirits, but are commonly addicted to bhang. All, 
whether of the three " twice-born castes " or not, put on 
the sacred thread and wear a tuft of hair on the crown 
of the head — practices which would seem intended as 
assertions of the equality of all Hindus, effected by a 

^ The use of this name to designate quite distinct sects or orders is, to 
say the least, somewhat confusing to the inquirer. 
2 Travels of a Hindu, by Bholanath Chander, p. 35. 

189 



THE xMYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

process of levelling up to the higher strata in the caste 
system. 

As a head-covering the Bairagi often uses a Ram nam 
Tea safa, which is a piece of cotton cloth with the names 
of Kama and Sita stamped on it, and usually obtained from 
Muttra or Bindrabun. 

Bairagis are supposed to be celibates, but the *' monks 
of this order have generally a large number of nuns 
attached to their convents, with whom they openly live as 
man and wife." ^ 

A most elaborate ritual has been laid down for the 
guidance of Bairagis in the daily routine of the indispensable 
business and duties of life, prescribing in minute detail how, 
for example, the ascetic should wash, bathe, sit down, 
perform pranayam (stoppage or regulation of respiration), 
purify his body, purge his mind, meditate on Vishnu, repeat 
the Gayatri as composed for the special use of members of the 
sect, worship Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Bharata, and Satringah, 
together with Rama's bows and arrows, and, lastly, the 
monkey god Hanuman.^ 

So many observances are prescribed and so much 
repetition is enjoined that it is evident that the object in 
view was to give the Bairagi enough to fully occupy his 
thoughts and his waking hours. Of course the mystic 
union of the worshipper with his deity is an object kept 
prominently before him in these religious exercises, especially 
in his meditations, and he is required to realise that Rama 
and himself are one, not two. The Bairagi is expected to pay 
at least one visit to Dwarka in order to be branded on his 
right arm with the Vishnu symbols — the discus, the conch, 
the club, and the lotus. 

4. The Kahir Panthis. — Kabir having practically re- 
commended his followers to be all things to all men, and 
to concihate the world at large by outward conformity with 
prevailing customs, it has come about, quite naturally, that 

^ Hindu Castes and Sects, by Dr. J. N. Bhattacliarjee, p. 445. 

2 The history of these personages, as narrated in the famous Sanski-it 
epic the Ramayana, has been epitomised in my Great Indian Epics (George 
Bell & Sons, London). 

190 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

the Kabir Panthis have no distinctive dress or ceremonies. 
As far as they do affect peculiarities of any kind, they 
follow those of the Ramats, wearing tulasi beads and having 
the trifala painted on their foreheads. Monks of this sect 
may be met with all over Northern and Central India. 
It would seem that the Kabir Panthis hold, in 
opposition to the generally accepted Hindu ideas, that 
the Creator " has body formed of the five elements of 
matter, and that He has mind endowed with the three 
gunas, or quaUties of being— of course of ineffable purity 
and irresistible power ; He is free from the defects of 
human natures, and can assume what particular shape He 
will ; in all other respects He does not differ from man, and 
the pure man, the Sadh of the Kabir sect, is His living 
resemblance, and after death is His associate and equal." ^ 

5. The BallavacharyaSy well known in Western India, 
worship Bala Gopala, the cowherd boy. All Hindus, 
Sudras included, may join the sect, but men of the lowest 
castes, such as dhohis (washermen), mochis (shoemakers), 
darzis (tailors), and napits (barbers), are not received 
into it. 

Asceticism is practically unknown amongst the Balla- 
vites, since they hold '' the doctrine that the spiritual 
progress of the soul is possible only by keeping the body 
and its powers in a sound condition." ^ This being the case, 
a consideration of their peculiarities lies outside the scope 
of the present book. 

6. The Chaitanites. — Even the lowest castes are ad- 
mitted into this sect. Chaitanite mendicant monks are 
generally called Bairagis. Both males and females are 
admitted, the former being addressed as Babaji and the 
latter as Mataji. These Babajis and Matajis commonly 
live together as husbands and wives, though the former 
affect the usual garments of ascetics and the latter those 
of widows. 

In all religious systems the celibate state has, with 
good reason, been looked upon as one of supreme 

^ Wilson's Religious Sects of the Hindus, p. 51. 
2 Hindu Castes and Sects, by Dr. J. N. Bhattacharjee, p. 458. 

191 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

self-sacrifice, and therefore as a holy state ; but it is so 
entirely unnatural that, when embraced as a rule of life by 
sects, orders, or professions, it has never been lived up to. 
What steady and protracted opposition was experienced 
in the Christian Church before celibacy could be enforced 
amongst Christian ecclesiastics, and what gross immoralities 
and scandals compulsory celibacy led to, are well known. ^ 

" The Chaitanite nuns," says Dr. Bhattacharjee, " are re- 
cruited chiefly from the superannuated unfortunates of the 
town. The order is joined also by some of the unchaste 
widows of the lower classes." ^ 

There are, however, some of the Chaitanite Bairagis, 
the so-called Brikats (men disgusted with the world), who 
profess celibacy and live in monasteries, of which a great 
many have been erected by the liberality of the richer lay 
members of the sect. 

The dress worn by the Chaitanite monks is generally 
white, but a yellow colour is sometimes adopted. Like 
other Vaishnavas, the Chaitanites paint perpendicular lines 
on their foreheads, generally with gopi-chandana ; they also, 
by means of engraved stamps dipped in moist gopi- 
chandana^ print upon their arms and breasts the names 
of their deities and often the word gora, which is a 
corruption for goura, one of the many names of their 
prophet. Their rosaries and necklaces are made of beads 
cut from the tulasi plant, which is held in high venera- 
tion by them. 

The Chaitanites are strict vegetarians, and avoid the 
use of all intoxicants. They are required to abstain 
from communion with those Hindus who offer animal 
sacrifices.^ 

There are amongst the followers of Chaitanya various 
sub-sects well known for their immoralities. For example, 
the Spashta DayaJcas. amongst whom the monks and nuns 
live together in the same monasteries, with results which 

^ On this subject Mr. H. C. Lea's full and learned work, Sacerdotal 
Celibacy, is probably the best one in English. 

2 Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 467. 

3 \Vard's Hindus, pp. 125, 126. 

192 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

may well b.e imagined ; the Sahajas, who hold that every 
man is Krishna and every woman Radha, and consequently 
approve of promiscuous intercourse ; and the Bauh, who, 
going one step further, maintain that " sexual indulgence is 
the most approved form of religious exercise." ^ 

^ Dr. Bhattacharjee's Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 483. 




N 



193 



CHAPTER Y III— continued 



Section V. — Three Sikh Mendicant Orders : Udasis, Nirraalis, Akalis. 




N the last chapter I noted the more 
essential characteristics of Sikhism, 
and also the fact that at the present 
time it is manifesting a tendency, 
real if hardly perceptible, to re- 
adopt many of the practices of 
Hinduism, out of which it gradu- 
ally emerged in the fifteenth, six- 
teenth, and seventeenth centuries, 
under the stimulus of poHtical 
conditions which have long since 
ceased to exist. 

Of the mendicant orders which 
sprang out of Sikhism I have 
selected the Udasis, Nirmalis, and 
Akalis for notice here, more especi- 
ally on account of the peculiar and 
picturesque circumstances to which 
the latter two owe their begin- 
nings. 

The Udasis} — This order of 
sadhus, which is an extremely 
numerous one in the Punjab, was 
founded bv Siri Chand, eldest son 
of Baba Nanak. Siri Chand lived 
to see the sixth Sikh guru, Har 
Govind, and, when he was over a 
hundred years old, he adopted 
1 Udasi = grief, dejection. 

194 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

Gurditta, a son of the last-named guru, to succeed liim as 
abbot of the order of the Udasis. But Gurditta, being a 
sporting character and a married man, was disqualified 
from being a proper head of the brotherhood. He there- 
fore made over the spiritual leadership of the order to 
four men who were to act as his mosands or deputies, and 
these four became the founders of the four principal sub- 
orders, called dhuans, or hearths, into which the Udasis 
are divided. 

It is stated that, when Siri Chand's claims to succeed 
his father Baba Nanak in the guruship were passed over 
by his venerable parent in favour of Angad, one of his 
most devoted followers, the disappointed son threw ashes 
on his head and person, in token of his grief and abase- 
ment ; and to this day the Udasis hold ashes in great 
esteem in memory of this painful event, the ashes, for 
ceremonial purposes mixed with calcareous earth, being 
sometimes made into large balls several inches in 
diameter. 

Udasis are usually decently clad in salmon-coloured 
clothes. They wear a pointed cap on the head and a 
black cord known as a sdlee round the neck. They carry 
a jholi or bag hanging from the shoulder, and a toomba 
or dried pumpkin which serves as a water-pot. A black 
dsan, or small carpet, often forms a part of their travelling 
outfit. Some wear a mass of matted hair on their heads, 
others go almost clean-shaven, there being apparently no 
general rule on this matter. The use of flesh, spirits, and 
tobacco is denied to the Udasis. Many members of the 
order are good Sanskrit scholars. When a chela is 
admitted into the order, he is adjured to avoid those two 
deadly temptations : gold and women. The initiatory 
ceremony is brought to a conclusion ^by the chela drinking 
the water with which his guru's feet have been washed. 
He is then taught certain portions of a hymn known as 
the jap-ji, and dismissed with this final admonition — 

" Charan sadh ke dho dho peyo 
Urap Badh ko apna jeyo." 

(Drink the water with which the sadhu has washed his 

195 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

feet, and give up your soul and body to the sadhu, i.e. the 
guru.) 

The Nirmalis (the pure). — The circumstances under 
which this order originated are, I should say, unique. In 
A.D. 1691, or thereabouts, Govind Singh, the tenth and 
last guru of the Sikhs, celebrated with unusual pomp at 
Anandpur the gay Hindu saturnalia known as the Holi. 
Visitors were attracted thither from considerable distances, 
and amongst others came a young and beautiful Hindu 
widow named Anup Kaur, a Khatrani by caste, and a 
resident of Lahore. Guru Govind Singh, who was only 
twenty-five years of age and a particularly handsome man, 
captivated the susceptible heart of the young widow, and 
she resolved to try her arts upon him. It appears that at 
this period the chief object of Govind's life was to induce, 
I might almost say compel^ the goddess Devi to appear to him 
and promise him her assistance against the Muhammadan 
rulers of the land, who were carrying on a bitter religious 
persecution of the Hindus. For the attainment of the end 
he had in view, Govind had gathered many Brahmans 
together, — for, like all Hindus, he believed that if the 
appropriate religious ceremonies were correctly carried out, 
the goddess, however reluctant, would be constrained to 
make her appearance. 

It is well known to the Hindu that besides the 
Brahmans there are others who, by the practice of painful 
austerities, have become possessed of great, sometimes 
unlimited, power. These thaumaturgists are to be found 
only here and there, it is true, amongst the sadhus of 
various sects who abound in India. To the sadhus, 
therefore, Govind frequently resorted for advice and 
assistance in his endeavours to propitiate the goddess 
Devi. Having come to know this, a happy idea entered 
the head of the love-sick Anup Kaur. She would person- 
ate a sadhu, enter into close relations with Govind, and, 
in the end, attract and ensnare the object of her passion. 

In pursuance of this plan, she disguised herself as a 
sadhu, and, being possessed of ample means, she easily 
secured accomplices in her scheme. She took up her 
abode at a spot within a short distance of Anandpur, and 

196 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

her satellites soon let it be known through the countryside 
that a most holy and learned Sanyasi had favoured the 
neighbourhood with his presence. It was also given out 
that this most saintly Mahatma had a special key to open 
the heart of the goddess Devi. The important news, of 
course, reached Govind, for whom it had been specially 
prepared, and he forthwith instructed a confidential ser- 
vant to arrange an early interview with the new-comer. 
The youthful sadhu, however, betrayed no eagerness to 
meet the guru, and merely sent word to the effect that if 
Govind wished to come he might do so, but on condition 
that he came without any pomp or following, in an ascetic 
garb, at midnight and alone. 

These conditions excited the imagination of Govind 
Singh, and enhanced the importance of the sadhu in his 
eyes. So, ha\dng donned the orange-coloured vestments of 
an ascetic, he sought the saintly Mahatma in the stillness 
of the night at the appointed hour. 

He was graciously received, and the usual exchange of 
compliments and ideas took place. After a little while, 
on some pretext or other the sadhu retired, and then re- 
appeared before the astonished guru decked in silks and 
jewellery, a young and fascinating woman, with every 
attraction that could lure an ordinary mortal to her 
embraces. But Govind, like Joseph under somewhat 
similar circumstances, kept his virtue, and, after rebuking 
Anup Kaur, made good his escape ; not, however, before 
the disappointed temptress had raised the cry of " Thief ! " 
Govind, who was never at any time deficient in artfulness, 
joined in the cry, and, seizing Anup Kaur's brother in the 
darkness, added greatly to the confusion, in which he 
managed to shp away safely. 

When Govind Singh returned home he gave the ascetic 
garb he had assumed for the memorable occasion to one 
of his followers, Bir Singh, a very holy personage, and 
authorised him to found a new sect of sadhus, to be 
called Nirmalis, or the pure, in commemoration of the 
event. 

This adventure of Govind's bore fruit of another kind 
also. The wiles of Anup Kaur had made a deep im- 

197 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

pression on liim, and he wrote, or more likely collected, no 
less than four hundred and four stories on the wiles of 
women, for the timely warning, it is said, of his simple 
followers. 

The Nirmalis are, on the whole, a learned order much 
given to Sanskrit studies, and are followers of the Vedanta 
philosophy. There is a tradition amongst them that five 
original members of the order went to study Sanskrit 
theology at Benares, but were denied the privilege of such 
studies by the Brahmans, because they happened to be 
Sudras by caste. However, Guru Govind Singh cheered 
the disappointed students by the prediction that their 
order would be famous for its learned men, from whom 
the Brahmans themselves would be glad to receive 
instruction. 

Nirmalis wear their hair long, and dress themselves in 
reddish-yellow garments. 

The Nihangs or Akalis} — The circumstances which gave 
rise to this sect are connected with the flight of Govind 
Singh from Cham Kor, famous in Sikh annals. At this 
place, in a little fortified enclosure, some forty Siklis 
defended themselves against a large number of the 
Mogul soldiers sent against them by the Muhammadan 
governor of Lahore. When hard pressed by the Imperial 
troops, Govind Singh dressed up one of his men in his 
own clothes, and, leaving him in charge of the defence, 
escaped secretly and alone from the beleaguered post. 
The place, though stoutly defended, was eventually cap- 
tured by the Moguls, but a few of the brave defenders 
managed to get away, and went at once in search of their 
revered guru. They found him not far from the village 
of Machiwara, asleep near a well, quite overcome with 
fatigue. 

In this village Govind had some Muslim friends, to 
whom he appealed for help in order to conceal himself 
from the pursuit of the Mogul soldiery, who would no 
doubt be scouring the country in search of him. These 
good friends helped him to disguise himself in the blue 
dress of a Mushm faquir, known about those parts as an 
* iVt^a?tg'= humble. ^A^» = immortal. 
198 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

Uch ka fir (a saint of Uch), so named from the village 
of Uch near Multan, where lived numerous Sayads or 
descendants of ' the prophet Muhammad. To make the 
disguise more effective, Govind Singh was placed on a light 
bed, known as a chdrpdi, and carried along the road as an 
Uch ka fir would ordinarily be carried. Of the men who 
shouldered his chdrfdi two were Sikhs, and two, whose 
names are remembered to this day, — Nabi Khan and 
Ghani Khan, — were Muhammadans. A third Sikh was in 
attendance, fanning the pseudo-;p*V. They had not gone far 
when they were overtaken by the Muhammadan troops, 
who looked upon Pir-ji with some suspicion. To test the 
case, the soldiers requested the fir to prove that he was 
what he professed to be, by eating with them. In reply, 
the attendants said that the holy man never ate anything 
at all, except perhaps one grain of barley in the month, 
but that they themselves would willingly eat with the 
Moguls ; and they did so, the three Sikhs along with their 
two Muslim friends. 

When the party reached a village inhabited by 
Govind's own people, he burnt a portion of the blue 
clothes he had assumed by way of disguise, and the 
remainder he presented to one Man Singh, a favouite 
follower of his, to be worn by him as the distinctive 
garb of a new order — Nihangs or Akalis — which he was 
authorised to found. 

The Akalis, in consequence, wear blue garments, but 
the dress they have adopted, in which their veneration of 
warlike weapons finds exaggerated expression, is grotesque. 
At the commencement of the section is the likeness 
of a present-day Akali, in all his war paint, which 
speaks for itself. During the Sikh raj, the Akalis 
were the most fanatical followers .of the cult of Guru 
Govind Singh, and their weapons were steeped in blood 
on many a fierce battlefield ; but, redoubtable though 
they were, their reckless fanaticism was hardly a 
match for the steady courage of the Purbia sepoys, 
who taught them and their Maharajah Ranjit Singh 
the supreme importance of training and discipline, a 
lesson which the astute Maharajah laid to heart, and 

199 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

turned to good account in the later years of liis strenuous 
Hie} 

The manners and customs of these sectaries are as 
peculiar as their personal appearance. When an AJcali is 
going to eat, he is required to shout with a loud voice, 
" Is anyone in want of a meal ? " and, in the unlikely event 
of anybody coming forward in response to this inquiry, he 
is to satisfy the hungry stranger before touching food 
himself. 

At Sikh dharmsalas, which are chapels and rest-houses 
combined, it is the common practice of the AJcalis to 
gather idly and expectantly round a large stone mortar, in 
which one of the party busies himself in bruising bhang 
(hemp leaves) with a stout wooden pestle. When the 
leaves are reduced to a green pulp, this is mixed with 
water and sugar and drunk with great appreciation by 
these fantastically clad immortals. 

Many Akalis, wandering about the country in comfort 
with horses and camels, do not hesitate to ask for 
pecuniary assistance. The leader of one of these bands 
once paid me a visit, sending in the following visiting- 
card : — 

PREM SINGH 

(NiHANG Singh) 
Vahiriya. 
(Of the party of Nihangs that travel about and have no fixed abode.) 



I began this sketch of the mendicant orders with an 
account of the harmless, unobtrusive Jains wandering over 
the country on foot, carrying merely a besom, not of 
destruction, but of ultra-tenderness for the lowly life of 
insects and lower organisms. I have concluded my 
account by introducing to the reader the truculent bhang- 
drinking Akali roving about, often on horseback or camel - 
back, bristling all over with weapons of war. 

Although the armed Akali may, by an obvious 
association of ideas, recall to mind the famous military 

'■ Memoirs of Colonel Alexander Gardner, chap. xi. 

200 



ASCETIC SECTS AND THEIR SUBDIVISIONS 

orders of the West, — the Templars, Hospitallers, and 
Teutonic knights of the Middle Ages, — the resemblance is 
too slight and trifling for even a moment's consideration. 
However, the immense interval, both chronological and 
pyschological, between the Jains of the fifth century 
B.C. and the Akalis of the seventeenth century of our 
era, may well serve as an emphatic illustration of the 
wonderful dissimilitude of some of the ideals which under- 
lie the practice of asceticism and mendicancy in India. 



201 



CHAPTER IX 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS, GOOD AND BAD 

I. The Swinging Bairagi. 2. The Sanyasi Swami Bhaskarananda of 
Benares. 3. Gareeb Das, an Urdhabahu Bairagi. 4. A Yogi who 
protected Amritsar from the Plague. 5. A Brahmachari from the 
Tamil Country. 6. A Sadhu of European Descent at Simla. 7. A 

Naked Sanyasi and his Companion, a Princess of B . 8. A Sadhu 

of Royal Lineage, Prince Bit Bhanu Singh. 9. A Sadhu who had 
found God. 10. A Sun-worshipping Bairagi. 11. Yogis and Pious 
Women. 12. A pseudo-Sadhu and his Adventures. 13. Yogi Guests. 
14. A Sadhu as Restaurateur. 15. A Saint in Chains. 

IFE-WEARY as well as light- 
hearted sadhus, professional 
anchorites both good and bad. 
are to be found all over India 
to-day just as in times past ; 
and if in the previous chapters 
I have succeeded at 
all in awakening the 
reader's interest in 
Indian sadhus^ he will 
not object to a closer and, as it were, more personal 
acquaintance with these ascetics, such as is afforded by 
the following narratives of actual interviews with them, 
and of trustworthy accounts of their doings carefully sifted 
and punctually noted down by me as soon as the facte 
were placed in my possession. 




1. The Swinging Bairagi. 

Near a large tanlc known as Ratan Chand's talao, in the 
neighbourhood of a group of Hindu temples in Lahore, 
and under some fine old peepul trees, two or three hundred 

202 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

people, mostly Hindus of both sexes, were assembled one 
fine evening in November, most of them attentively watch- 
ing a palanquin which had been placed on the high 
platform of a samadh or cenotaph erected to the memory 
of a Hindu lady by her wealthy son. The screens of the 
palanquin were drawn back, but I could see nothing 
within until I, approached quite near, when I discovered 
the emaciated figure of an almost naked man sitting with 
his knees drawn up against his chin in an attitude common 
enough in India, but one which the European would find 
it rather difficult to imitate. 

Down the length of the palanquin was a board, closely 
studded with blunt iron nails, and it was upon a portion 
of this most uncomfortable bed of spikes that the Bairagi 
was seated, and was supposed, perhaps quite correctly, to 
sleep at night. Above the bony shins and exaggerated 
knot-like knees of this seated figure appeared a human 
head with an immense shock of hair like a chignon hanging 
heavily behind it. Its hollow eyes, peering over a pair of 
green glass -and -wire goggles, had a queer hunted look 
about them, and its nostrils seemed strangely misshapen, 
one being apparently distended with some sort of plug or 
other. From this repulsive figure there proceeded, from 
time to time, sundry guttural sounds and hollow coughs. 

A faithful disciple, conveniently at hand, explained to 
me that his master in the palanquin was more than one 
hundred and thirty years of age, and had resolved to 
undergo certain penances until he should succeed in 
collecting enough money to feast one hundred thousand 
Brahmans and to give each one of his guests the present 
of at least one rupee, apparently for being good enough to 
partake of the banquet provided for him. 

As I stood near the palanquin a succession of men and 
women, mostly the latter, mounted the platform, approached 
the ascetic, and, bowing down before him so that their 
heads touched the very floor, placed their offerings, con- 
sisting for the most part of pice or of small silver coins, 
before the holy man. This done, they passed on without 
an audible word, though some silent wish or prayer was 
no doubt in each one's heart. The saint did not con- 

203 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

descend to notice anyone, but merely looked absently, 
with those queer hunted eyes of his, at his admirers as 
they approached his presence and added their contributions 
towards the considerable sum necessary for the fulfilment 
of his vow. 

Presently a stir took place amongst the ascetic's 
attendants. The usual time for him to perform his 
ablutions had arrived. A pair of wooden-soled sandals 
studded with spikes were placed beside the palanquin, and 
upon their prickly surface the poor fellow was helped to 
place his bare feet. With the assistance of his men, the 
emaciated Bairagi was brought forward and allowed to 
subside on to a low wooden stool about four or five inches 
high. When he emerged from his palanquin the onlookers 
took up what, according to Indian ideas, is a most 
respectful attitude, all present facing the ascetic with 
slightly bowed heads and palms joined together before 
their breasts. Anyone who may have seen a picture of a 
Rajah's durbar, painted by an Indian artist, will at once 
comprehend what I mean. All faces turned in one 
direction, — the direction of the Rajah, — each man's feet 
set close together side by side, his palms accurately joined 
one against the other and the fingers slanting upwards 
at an angle of about forty-five degrees — all beautifully 
regular, all uniformly respectful. 

The saint reputed to be one hundred and thirty years 
old, though certainly very rickety and worn, was probably 
not more than half that age. He coughed a good deal and 
seemed very weak. 

When about to perform his ablutions in public, he 
requested the people nearest him to stand back a little, 
lest the water should reach and inconvenience them. A 
slight backward movement was the result, and, when an 
attendant poured some water on the Bairaq^s hands, it 
was seen that his wrists were united by an iron chain not 
more than six or seven inches long. Now came the 
important operation of dislodging the huge plug from his 
right nostril. As the sadhu removed it, not without a 
little effort, it was followed by a loosely tmsted cord of 
unspun cotton about eight or nine inches long, which had 

204 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

apparently been hanging in the pharynx at the back of 
the nose. No wonder the poor fellow coughed so 
frequently and so painfully. Two cotton cords, similar 
to the one described but somewhat longer, were handed 
to the Bairagi. Their ends were pointed and perhaps a 
little stiffened with wax. With an unpleasant, almost 
painful, grunt or moan, he passed them both up his nostrils, 
and then, opening his mouth as wide as possible, fished up 
with his long skinny fingers the pendent ends of the two 
cords. All four extremities were now in his hands, and 
he proceeded to draw the strings to and fro through liis 
nose and mouth five or six times. When Maharaj, as 
they called him, had thus cleansed his nostrils and throat, 
two narrow bamboo tubes, each about eighteen inches long, 
were brought to him. One had a small funnel at its 
extremity. The Bairagi having held his head aslant, the 
small end of the fmmel tube was appHed to his right 
nostril and one end of the other tube to his left nostril, 
the latter being lower than the former. Water was now 
poured, from a vessel with a spout, into the funnel, and 
came of! in a continuous stream at the end of the other 
and lower tube — a rather difficult performance this, I 
should fancy. It remained to plug the left nostril for the 
night as the other had previously been, for they were 
stopped turn about. This operation was accomplished by 
passing a long wick, or cotton cord, up the nose, and finally 
introducing its other and knotted end with a little force 
into the much distended nostril. As the stiffened end of 
the cord disappeared up the ascetic's nose, a veracious 
disciple assured us that it had gone straight up into the 
brain. He repeated this statement many times, and the 
Bairagi, who heard it, and knew it was not true, did not 
contradict it. 

These operations duly accomplished in the public gaze, 
the holy man was helped back once more into his un- 
comfortable lodging in the palanquin. 1 learnt that twice 
a day, morning and evening, Maharaj repeated this disgust- 
ing and unedifying performance, and that twice a day 
people assembled to see and admire it, although it is 
neither original in its conception, — for other Bairagis do 

205 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the like, — nor, I should think, specially agreeable for any- 
one to behold. 

Had this worn-out ascetic so assiduously devoted to 
the regular cleansing of his nostrils and throat ever had a 
romance in his life ? Had he been deceived, disillusioned, 
driven to despair ? Had that uncouth figure ever been 
acceptable to the fair sex ? Had those strange hunted eyes 
ever gleamed with rage or melted with passion ? Possibly ; 
but these are questions more easily asked than answered. 
The Bairagi himself did not speak ; and the motive assigned 
for all his severe penance, the desire to feed a hundred 
thousand Brahmans, could be accounted rational only on 
the supposition that he desired to expiate some sin, or 
more likely to acquire merit and power through his 
austerities, the feeding of one hundred thousand Brahmans 
being set before himself as a definite object to limit the 
duration of his self-imposed hardships. 

I had leisure now to study my company and surround- 
ings. At the foot of one of the peepul trees I found three 
sadhus sitting round a small fire, all of them young and 
healthy. They had no connection with the Bairagi who 
was attracting so much attention, and rather aSected to 
turn their backs upon him. Two of these men were so 
scantily clothed that their united garments would have 
hardly made a decent-sized pocket-handkerchief ; the third 
was absolutely naked, sky-clothed (digamhara) he would 
himself have said, under broad daylight, in a public place, 
and amidst a mixed crowd of both sexes. The shy-clothed 
one was, I have no doubt, an abandoned scamp. He 
looked it. A grave and well-dressed man ventured to 
suggest, in my hearing, the desirability of a rag in the 
interests of decency, to which the religious man made 
some flippant observation about the trouble of keeping it 
tied. 

Before I left the spot I learned that the sadhu of the 
spiky bed had yet another mode of drawing the wondering 
multitude to visit him and to contribute their portion 
towards the accomplishment of his vow. Once a day, in 
the afternoon, he used to have himself suspended, head 
downwards, from a sturdy branch of a great tree, before 

206 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

the admiring gaze of a large concourse of people. On tlie 
first STiitable opportunity I came to see this part of his 
performance. 

It was a lovely day. A crowd of about five hundred 
men and women had assembled, and, in Oriental fashion, 
were meekly and quietly sitting down on the ground 
awaiting the great man's convenience. A few persons, 
mostly women, pressed on to the platform, and I noticed a 
girl of about sixteen in bright red clothes sit down and 
peer into the palanquin with wondering curiosity. Most 
likely she was from the country, and had come to Lahore 
from some neighbouring village on purpose to see Maharaj. 
A female companion pulled her roughly away, but dis- 
engaging herself she came back again to stare with wide- 
open eyes at the wonderful sadhu, until she was pushed 
aside by others who did not approve of her monopoUsing 
the best position for viewing his saintship. 

At about one o'clock an attendant came forward and 
set to work preparing a space about ten feet square, under 
a large peepul tree, by smearing it over with a mixture of 
clay, cow-dung, and water. This done, he placed a pile of 
dried cow-dung cakes upon it and applied a light. A cloud 
of white smoke was quickly diffused all around. When 
the fuel happened to blaze up the attendant moderated its 
energy by sprinkhng a little water on it, thus bringing it 
back to the desired smoky condition. The Bairagi now 
came forth, helped as before, and, after washing his hands, 
had his hair firmly tied up in a cloth which also covered 
his face. He next put one foot into a loop of thick 
cotton rope depending from a branch of the tree, and was 
hauled up, head downwards, till he hung suspended about 
three feet above the smouldering fire. With one hand he 
grasped the free foot, and with the other he manipulated 
a rosary concealed in a bag called a gomukhi. By a slender 
string passed round his body one of his disciples kept him 
swaying over the smoky fire, into which a Brahman was 
throwing grain, ghee, and other things. For seven-and- 
twenty minutes by my watch the Bairagi was swung head 
downwards over that smouldering fire. When he had 
counted his beads he dropped the bag and was then 

207 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

immediately taken down, looking perhaps a slight degree 
more exhausted for his half -hour's constant fumigation feet 
upwards. 

Never a word was spoken throughout the entire per- 
formance about right or wrong, not one syllable about 
duty or worship. There was the dumb show, and nothing 
more. 

As the emaciated figure, resembling a skeleton rather 
than a man, swayed to and fro like the pendulum of 
some strange old-world clock — the clock of Indian ideas — 
I tried to read on the living dial before me what time of 
day it was. The circle of onlookers was a large one, 
composed of Orientals, whose thoughts and ideas are very 
inscrutable, yet it seemed to me that the face of the very 
complicated, but interesting, dial I was studying indicated 
that dawn was approaching, though the daybreak had not 
yet appeared. 

A few generations hence the Bairagi clock I have 
described will be unknown, at least in the great cities of 
India. 

2. The Sanyasi Swami Bhaskarananda op Benares. 

In the holy city of Benares there lived for many years 
a famous Sanyasi, Swami Bhaskarananda Saraswati, who 
died in 1899, being then sixty-six years of age. 

This interesting old gentleman, who was more than a 
local celebrity, resided in excellent quarters in a fine 
garden placed at his disposal, known as Anundabagh, 
belonging to the Rajah of Amity. There, at the end of 
1895, I paid him a visit, having been informed that he 
was always pleased to receive strangers who cared to make 
his acquaintance. When I was announced, the Sanyasi, 
who had been sitting stark naked, wrapped a loin cloth 
about him as a polite concession to my narrow conventional 
prejudices, and stepped forward to welcome me with a most 
engaging smile. Strange as it may seem, there was un- 
deniably something refined and attractive about the 
personality of this naked ascetic with his transparently 
benevolent countenance, rather light brown complexion, 

2o8 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

clean-shaven head and face, toothless mouth, and keen, 
bright, impressive eyes. 

A very learned Sanskrit scholar, and deeply versed in 
the Vedanta philosophy, this sadhu was well known to 
and venerated by his Hindu countrymen throughout 
Northern India. 

The old man asked me many questions about my 
occupation and the object of my visit to Benares, and in 
my turn I ventured to inquire whether his practice of 
going entirely naked at all times was not rather trying in 
the winter. " No," he said, smiling pleasantly ; " by long 
habit my entire person has become accustomed to being 
exposed, just as your face and hands are. I really feel no 
inconvenience." 

Though a recluse, Swami Bhaskarananda, for whom 
the world, which after all is only an illusion, had no attrac- 
tion whatever, kept a visitors' book, and, having directed 
an attendant to produce it, turned over the pages, pointing 
out in it with evident pride the signatures of two or three 
British M.P.'s. After we had conversed for some time on 
various subjects, he courteously gave me some Sanskrit 
pamphlets, written by himself, on rehgious and philosophical 
matters. I told Swami-ji that I had some idea of publish- 
ing a book about Indian ascetics. He expressed his 
pleasure at this, and was almost childishly delighted when 
I said that I should probably mention him in my book. 
Apparently to help me in this matter, he presented me 
with a short biography of himself, written in English by 
one Gopal Chander Chatter jee, to which was prefixed a 
lithographed likeness of Swami-ji. After a pleasant hour 
with the ascetic I took leave of him, but had barely left 
the premises when an attendant came^ after me to call me 
back.^ I retraced my steps, and Swami-ji most courteously 

^ Prince Bojidar Karageorgevitch visited a sadhu at Benares, who, 
though he does not name him, was no doubt Swami Bhaskarananda. The 
prince says with reference to this event : " As I was leaving, the faquir 
called me back, asked me to think of him sometimes, and gave me one of 
the splendid yellow roses that hung about him like a glory." — Enchanted 
India, p. 163. I wonder if Swami-ji had a well-thought-out habit of thus 
courteously recalling his visitors with the object of impressing himself more 
strongly upon their memories. 

o 209 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

said he felt he must have at least one more word with me 
before we parted, perhaps for ever ; and he then, with many 
good ^vishes for my welfare, Idndly handed me a photo- 
graph of himself for my hook, as he said, and I have much 
pleasure in reproducing it now (Fig. 11), as I have also in 
calling to mind the serenity, cheerfulness, and urbanity of 
this famous and highly venerated Hindu ascetic. 

In a Httle lodge or chapel near the gate, and within 
the walls of the hagh where he resided, I noticed a 
life-size marble statue of the saint. It was a good like- 
ness. Later on I saw for sale in the idol-shops in the 
bazaars of the city many stone and brass statuettes, which 
appeared to be faithful copies of the statue I have just 
referred to. 

From the biographical sketch which he gave me I 
derived the following characteristic particulars regarding 
the Sanyasi^s past history : — 

His real name was Matiram Misra. He was born in 
1833 of a good Brahman family, was invested with the 
sacred thread at the age of eight, and married four years 
later. From his eighth to his seventeenth year he was 
a diligent and most successful student of the Sanskrit 
language and of the Vedanta philosophy. A son was born 
to him when he was but eighteen years old. By this 
event he was, in his own opinion, freed from any further 
social obligations, " he realised the unreality of this world 
and its pleasures," and resolved, contrar}^ to the wishes of 
his parents, to renounce the world and become a wandering 
ascetic. 

So one day he disappeared from his father's house and 
went on foot to Ujjaini, where he put up in a temple of 
Siva. Here he continued his Vedantic studies and began 
to practise yoga. But the spirit of unrest, which in India 
drives so many to embrace the callinor of the ascetic, took 
imperious possession of him. He accordingly left his 
temporary abode and visited the various sacred places of 
Malwa and Gujrat. At the latter city, however, he settled 
down for a period of seven years, which he devoted to a 
further study of the Vedanta philosophy. 

When Matiram had reached the age of twenty-seven, 

2IO 




THE SANYASI BHASKARANAXDA OF BENARES. 



Fig, 11. 



To face page 210. 



ii 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

" he resolved," says his Bengali biographer, " to enter the 
austere Asram of Sanyas. The true knowledge of gnan^ 
had dawned in his mind. He saw through the unreal 
nature of the world, and felt the existence of one Supreme 
Soul all through the universe. . . . 

The world," continues the philosophical biographer, 
is not real. It never existed, it does not exist, and it 
will not come into existence in future. We all dream, 
and, while sleeping, we think that the things we see in 
the dream are real, but as soon as we wake up we perceive 
the mistake. In the same way we are sleeping in the lap 
of ignorance, and as soon as true knowledge will dawn on 
us we shall be able to know that the world is but a dream, 
a shadow and not a substance." 

On the occasion of his admission to the sect of the 
Sanyasis, Matiram Misra received the new name by which 
he was to be known in after-years, and, according to the 
custom of the sect he had joined, discontinued wearing the 
sacred thread, which was the proud symbol of his Brah- 
manhood. 

After some time spent " in the contemplation of the 
Jibatma (or the human soul) as being one with the Paratma 
or the Supreme Essence," he started upon a round of 
travels, in the course of which he visited his native village 
once more. 

There he saw his parents, his long-neglected wife, and 
the associates of his youth, but the ties which had once 
bound him to his relatives and friends had been dissolved 
for ever. To such as would listen to him he explained 
the utter worthlessness of the world and its hollow 
pleasures, and then, the spirit of unrest having again 
seized upon him, he took his departure to make an ex- 
tensive tour of the tirthas, or holy places, of a land of 
shrines. Alone, without any money, clad in a single 
garment, did the Sanyasi roam from end to end of India, 
visiting Bengal, Behar, Orissa, Madras, Bombay, Central 
India, and the Himalayas, experiencing on the long and 
weary way many dangers and hardships, such as floods, 
snow-storms, and starvation. While on his round of travels, 
he received unmoved the news of the death of his only son. 

211 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

For thirteen years Swami Bhaskarananda travelled 
about India, always practising tapasya (penance), and then 
feeling, after his long probation and constant striving, that 
he had obtained the ineffable knowledge he had desired, he 
settled down for the remainder of his life in the sacred 
city of Benares. 

Here he enjoyed the greatest consideration and dis- 
tinction. Pilgrims crowded to adore him. Princes from 
afar came to consult him, and bowed their royal heads 
down to his holy feet. Miracles, particularly of healing, 
were attributed to him, and temples were, even during his 
lifetime, built in his honour, and his eJBSgy worshipped in 
them. Images of the saint were also set up for private 
worship by the Rani of Barhar, the Maharajah of Ajodia, 
the Maharajah of Nagadh, and other important personages, 
and no doubt in many humble Hindu households also, 
since, as I have already mentioned, likenesses made of 
stone and metal of Swami-ji were plentiful in the idol-shops 
of Benares. 

In recording the above particulars of what is indeed 
a typical case, I have stated enough to show the honoured 
position and unstinted veneration with which the ascetic 
life in India may, even in this materialistic age, reward 
the successful sadhu. 

I will conclude with the following extract from a 
newspaper conducted entirely by Indians : — 

" DEATH OF SWAMI BHASKARANAND SARASWATI. 

" The death is announced from cholera, on last Sunday 
night at Benares, of Swami Bhaskaranand Saraswati, the 
celebrated recluse and devotee of the holy city. He was 
buried in a sitting posture in his garden at Durga Kund, 
and a monument will be raised over his grave. The 
funeral was attended by a large concourse of people, among 
whom were the Maharajas of Benares and Ajodhya, the 
Rajas of Mainpuri and Nagod, and a large number of 
Indian gentlemen. The last time that we wrote about the 
Swami-ji was when the Hon. Mr. La Touche, then offici- 
ating Lieutenant-Governor of the North -West Provinces, 

212 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH Sx\DHUS 

paid a visit to the venerable recluse and had some con- 
versation with him. Mr. La Touche presented the Swami 
a nazar of a gold mohur, which was at once handed over 
to the Swami's dependants. Swami Bhaskaranand was 
a most remarkable and attractive personality, and every 
distinguished visitor to Benares paid him his respects. 
Tourists from America and Europe always tried to see the 
Swami, who was frequently accessible, and all who saw 
him were struck by his wisdom and holiness. The Pioneer 
writes: 'The personaKty of the venerable Swami -ji 
Bhaskaranand Saraswati, who died at Benares shortly 
after midnight on Sunday, was one which interested 
Enghshmen no less than it dominated the Swami's own 
countrymen. This ascetic of ascetics, who had long ago 
passed so far on the way to Nirvana that no human con- 
tamination could any longer touch him, who was as far 
above considerations of caste as the pariah is below, and 
who has sat for years at Benares squat, hands crossed and 
clotheless, waiting for his deliverance from mortality, was 
a man of high intellectual powers, who took a keen interest 
not only in the affairs of India, but in the politics of 
Europe, and from whom an English visitor always received 
a cordial welcome. Among the higher classes of the native 
community the Swami was regarded with the utmost 
respect and veneration, his advice on all matters mundane 
and supramundane being eagerly sought, while among 
the lower classes he was already looked upon as a 
divine being, and would have been worshipped as such 
had he not always sternly forbade any manifestation of 
the kind.' 

" Swami Bhaskaranand was greatly appreciated and 
respected by a large number of Englishmen, and this was 
his special advantage. Before his appearance in Benares 
the most revered name in the sacred city was that of 
Trailangya Swami, who also sat clotheless for years on the 
bank of the Ganges. He was profoundly learned and a 
Paramahansa of the highest order ; but, as he had imposed 
upon himself a vow of silence, he was not much known 
among Englishmen. But so long as holy men of this type 
appear in India — and it is in this country alone that the 

213 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

race has never become extinct — we need not despair of the 
future."— The Tribune, 15th July 1899 (Lahore). 

3. Gareeb Das, an Urdhabahu Bairagi. 

Adjoining the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is a 
grove known as Guru Bagh ; and here a sadhu, conspicuous 
on account of having both arms rigidly uplifted above his 
head, took up his temporary abode attended by a few 
disciples. This was in the month of October, at the time 
of the Divali festival, which annually attracts a large multi- 
tude of people to the holy city of the Sikhs. 

When I saw the sadhu, his emaciated arms were 
apparently quite rigid, and the clenched hands, which were 
about six inches apart, were particularly painful to look at 
— wasted and shrunken, ^vith great curved nails growing 
like bird's claws out of the thin fingers. 

He had- his person rubbed all over with white ashes, 
and he wore a small loin cloth and a neatly tied turban. 
His features were long, and the expression of his face 
agreeable. What he looked like, and his utter helplessness, 
the portrait of him in the frontispiece will, I think, make 
quite clear. 

In conversation with him I ascertained that he was a 
Bairagi, that he came from Ajudya, and had been the chela 
of a famous guru formerly attached to the Hunaman Gari 
monastery in that city, but now deceased. I had visited 
Ajudya, and could talk about it and the sacred Surayu 
(Gogra), which flows by that ancient town ; and so the sadhu, 
touched by old associations, became communicative. His 
native place, he told me, was Bas Bareilli in Oudh, and his 
name Gareeb Das. 

What I wished particularly to ascertain from the 
Bairagi was what motive could possibly have induced him 
to subject himself voluntarily to such terrible, such almost 
inconceivable personal hardships as were plainly involved 
in the penance he had adopted. Not only had he deprived 
himself of the use of both his arms, but by the awkward 
unnatural position which he had forced them to assume he 
had made them a source of constant trouble, weariness, and 

214 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

inconvenience to himself, both waking and sleeping. His 
repHes to my inquiries were evasive and unsatisfactory, 
probably because he was an ilhterate man. At first he 
said that from the Scriptures he had received his mandate 
to perform this penance — which cryptic statement he 
subsequently elucidated by saying that from several pen- 
ances recommended in rehgious books he had selected 
this one, as it had been adopted by several members of his 
own sect and monastery. His object in thus afflicting 
himself was to have communication with Permashwar 
(Ctoo.), or, as he also said, to obtain mukti (salvation). 
An unsympathetic and ill-mannered bystander, on hear 
ing the sadhii's statement of his spiritual aspirations, 
contemptuously cited a Sanskrit distich which meant, 
" From penance comes a kingdom, and from the kingdom 
comes hell " — in allusion to a common belief that, by such 
mortifications of the flesh, sadhus really strive for raj or 
power and position in the next mundane life, that they gain 
their end,^ and then fall into the hell whither power and 
dominion inevitably lead one,. 

Gareeb Das the ascetic, when I saw him, had had his 
arms up above his head for eight long years, and desired to 
make no change for a further period of four years, at the 
end of which time he hoped to restore them to their former 
state, firstly by presents and feasts to the Brahmans, whose 
intercession would thus be secured, and secondly by the 
apph cation of certain emollients with peculiar stimulating 
properties known to the sadhus. "If it be the will of 
God," added Gareeb Das, speaking on this subject, " then 
my arms will be restored to their proper use when the 
appointed time comes." 

Referring to such cases, the missionary Ward says : 
" When a person wishes to bring the arm to its former 
position, he anoints the joints with clarified butter ; and 
in about two months, by degrees, the arm obtains its 

^ As indeed did the Brahman Muconda, who, by undergoing the severest 
austerities and a voluntary death by fire, with the view of being reborn 
in the purple, actually succeeded in coining back to this world as no less 
a personage than the famous Mogul Emperor Akbar. — Wilford's Essays, 
cited in Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, vol. iii. pp. 149, 150. 

215 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

former position, and in time becomes as strong as 
before." ^ 

As there are European thieves who do not hesitate to 
rob a church, so there are, it would seem, Indian repre- 
sentatives of the same ancient, if disreputable, fraternity, 
who have no scruples about appropriating the property of 
even a helpless sadliu. This was illustrated when Gareeb 
Das was deprived by impudent thieves of all his portable 
property, including a hook, which rumour declared was 
actually a bank pass-book, testifying to cash deposits 
mounting up to as much as a lakh of rupees. The dis- 
gusted sadliu promptly removed himself from the Guru 
Bagh where he had been robbed, and some of my servants 
met and conversed with him near the railway stadon, 
waiting for the train which was to take him away to 
Jeypore on his homeward journey. Such was the tale 
which was current in Amritsar, and which I noted down 
on the 26th of October. What was my surprise on the 7fch 
of November to find my friend Gareeb Das once again 
established in the Guru Bagh, the story of the robbery 
having been in all probabihty a mere invention got up to 
stimulate public interest in sadhuji. On this occasion the 
ascetic had a small private enclosure of his own, made up 
of bamboos and cloth screens. People were crowding in 
and out of this enclosure in goodly numbers. When I 
went in I noticed great heaps, literally heaps, of flour, salt, 
sugar, and such things — ^in fact, sacks and sacks full. It 
appeared that a few days previously the sadhu had given 
notice in the city that he would not eat anything until he 
had entertained five hundred unmarried girls at a feast. 
He hoped to accomplish this before the end of December, 
but contributions had come in so quickly that the feast- 
day had been fixed for the 9th of November. While I 
was learning these particulars the sadhu rose and walked 
a few paces with his arms above his head, and as he 
did so the poor fellow looked so utterly and painfully 
helpless that I could not but experience a feeling of 
the greatest compassion for him, not unmingled with a 

^ A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindus^ p. 297 
( Madras Edition, 1863). 

2l6 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

certain admiration of his steadfastness and prolonged 
endurance. 

Before I took my leave of the ascetic, an attendant, 
making a very polite speech, offered me a couple of hand- 
fuls of raisins and almonds. I took just two raisins 
and dropped a rupee on the remainder. The money was 
removed and the raisins and almonds given to the police- 
man who was in attendance upon me, in accordance with 
the rule v/hich prevails at the Golden Temple. The 
Punjabi policeman willingly accepted the gift, carefully 
tying up the dried fruits and nuts in a very dirty hand- 
kerchief. 

The sadhiCs feast to the unmarried girls came off in 
proper time, and was a complete success, for a great many 
Hindu ladies of good position came on the appointed day 
and helped to cook and distribute the food amongst the 
invited guests. In this way Gareeb Das, without spending 
a single rupee out of his own pocket, and himself a cripple, 
was enabled, through the hberal contributions and helpful 
courtesy of his admirers, to play the host munificently to 
five hundred youthful maidens of Amritsar. 

4. A Yogi who protected Amritsar from the Plague. 

Evil days had come upon the land. The plague had 
made its appearance in the Punjab, and with it stringent 
orders for the compulsory segregation of all real and 
suspected cases — a measure dreaded by the people far 
more than the fell disease itself. Rather than have the 
privacy of their homes invaded, rather than have their 
loved ones forcibly separated from them in the hour of 
their dire need and committed to the unsympathetic care 
of hirelings, the people had risen in armed opposition to 
the authorities, and several lives had been sacrificed in 
the conflict. 

"If it be the will of God that we should die, let us 
die together as we have lived together," was the feeling 
which animated the hearts of a people not yet civilised 
enough to appreciate the highly prudent sentiments 
which elsewhere enable men to unmurmuringly give 

217 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

up their dearest to the hospitals for infectious diseases, 
and save their precious selves from danger for the 'public 
good. 

Well, in the evil days I refer to, a Yogi visited 
Amritsar, and it was rumoured that his object was to 
avert from the city certain impending calamities. 

I found him near the fine tank known as Durgiana, 
in a large space enclosed by canvas walls. He was 
seated on a slightly raised platform of beaten earth, over 
which a cloth had been spread. He was enveloped in a 
clean white cotton sheet of good quality. Only a portion 
of his face was visible, one eye and cheek being concealed 
by his matted locks. His nose was bold and prominent, 
but the eye on the visible side of his face was half closed. 
Although supposed to be practising yoga, he kept his 
ears and half- closed eyes about him. By the Yogi's side 
there were within easy reach two plates, one contain- 
ing rose-petals and the other cardamums ; there were 
also a brass lotah and another brass water-pot shaped 
to resemble a gourd. A woman with a young child 
was prostrating herself in adoration before the saint 
when I first approached him, but seeing me she 
timidly withdrew to some little distance, and then, spell- 
bound by curiosity, kept her eyes fixed upon me. While 
still in apparent meditation, the sadhii was good enough 
to give me a handful of rose-petals and some carda- 
mums, and in return I put a rupee into a brass salver 
just in front of him, where already lay some eight or 
ten rupees, together with a lot of small silver and copper 
coins. 

My companion, a pandit who could speak Sanskrit, 
asked the Yogi in most respectful terms to tell me 
something about yoga, as I was much interested in the 
matter ; but all the saint vouchsafed was some Sanskrit 
verses on the importance of truth. I inquired how long 
he intended to stay at Amritsar. 

" Who knows ? " was the reply. " I am a bird {perind) : 
here to-day, gone to-morrow." 

However, his Brahman attendants were more com- 
municative. The Yogi^s mission, they explained, was to 

218 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

avert a threatened calamity, and with this end in view he 
proposed to feast — 

(1) The unmarried girls of Amritsar. 

(2) The sadhus who might be there. 

(3) Muslim faquirs. 

Why these last I could not understand. Of course the 
feasts were to be given at the expense of the inhabitants 
of the endangered city ; that is, out of their contributions. 

As a preliminar)?' step, the Yogi determined to carry out 
daily the bloodless havan or horn sacrifice in the orthodox 
style, and in this was, of course, mlHngly assisted by a 
number of Brahmans. When I visited the Yogi, prepara- 
tions for the day's havan were going on under a fine peepul 
tree a few yards away. A canopy raised about nine feet 
above the ground was stretched over the spot where some 
fuel, kindled but not suffered to blaze up, was quietly 
smouldering. Two huge iron tongs stuck upright in the 
ground gave a ceremonial appearance to the place. The 
chief officiating Brahmans were away in the tow^n investing 
many twice-horn youths with the sacred thread, as it was 
the festival of Baisakhi, and their services much in demand 
for this purpose. For several days the havan had been per- 
formed regularly, and presents of food-stuffs for the pro- 
posed feasts had been gradually accumulating. However, 
the results had not been as satisfactory as the Brahmans 
had hoped, so proceedings on a larger and more attractive 
scale were to be undertaken, and for this purpose a big 
trough-like receptacle lined with bricks some six or eight 
feet square was being constructed, where the flames of a 
really imposing havan might attract the attention and 
liberality of the public. 

My visit was a matter of gratification to the Yogi, 
even though he had turned his back upon the world and 
its foolish vanities, for the following day he mentioned, 
with ill-concealed pride, to some college students that a 
sahib had been to see him. He also informed them 
incidentally that he had inflicted certain burns upon his 
own arm as a qurhani, or sacrifice, for the safety of the 
city, which was threatened with serious trouble. 

219 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

The Yogi^s feasts, I believe, came off satisfactorily, and 
it is worth mentioning that the plague did not invade 
Amritsar that year. To a majority of the ignorant 
populace these two facts were plainly cause and effect, and 
the claims of sadhuism justified once more by irrefragable 
results. 

All Yogis are not as public-spirited as this self- 
constituted tutelarv saint of Amritsar. I knew one man 
who sojourned in a big shed usually occupied by members 
of the sect, and there he passed his time pretty contentedly, 
toping. He was always pleased to see me was this thirsty 
soul, for my visits flattered his vanity and brought a rupee 
or two to his scanty exchequer. Once I saw a Sanyasi 
with him, apparently on the best of terms, and learnt that 
the two lived together and ate together. Whether this was 
quite warranted by custom I do not know, but I think 
not. There was also a hoj-Yogi in the company, of about 
twelve years of age, with the usual yogi emblems, in- 
cluding the large ear-rings. I ascertained that he had 
been dedicated to the order by his parents. While I 
talked with them, the guru, to refresh himself, poured out 
a small cup of ardent country spirits and tossed it off 
with evident relish. I was afterwards told that the old 
fellow drank pretty freely, but never became quarrelsome. 
Of food he partook very sparingly. In the shed which 
they inhabited temporarily, the Yogis, wild-looking fellows, 
were grouped in small parties round two or three fires. 
Many lay visitors were there too, squatted about and 
respectfully watching the saints. Sunset being the hour 
for the adoration of the guru, his own three or four chelas 
gathered round my inebriate friend, just as the solar 
orb was on the horizon, and bowed their heads down 
to their guru's feet. They blew their little whistles 
as if they were sounding trumpets in the presence of 
a king, and then, placing their open hands side by 
side to form a sort of bowl, waved them before him in 
small circles as if performing the Hindu rite of artee 
in honour of a god. There were no lights, it is true, 
but the ceremony, in its artless imitation, was quite un- 
mistakable. 

220 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

5. A Wandering Brahmachari from the Tamil 

Country. 

A young sadhu, about twenty-five years of age, good- 
looldng, well clad, and in robust health, who said he was a 
Brahmachari and a bachelor, visited me at Amritsar. He 
spoke broken English, but could make liimself understood 
fairly well. On his forehead, just above the nose, a bright 
red spot was painted. Round his neck he wore a necklet 
of rudraksha berries, and in his hand he carried a thin book 
or pamphlet in the Tamil language. It was illustrated 
with the quaintest woodcuts imaginable — showing the 
difficulties awaiting and the punishments inflicted upon the 
viicked after death. The last picture in the book was a 
by no means inviting representation of Swarga, or the regions 
of dehght, which looked very like a bad imitation of some 
portions of Benares. 

With his little book to remind him, both by text and 
picture, of the evils attendant upon misconduct in this 
world, and to guide his footsteps to the joys of heaven, the 
young sadhu was cheerfully earning the merit to be de- 
rived from a pilgrimage to the holy places of India, 
depending upon such knowledge of English as he could 
command to carry him successfully on his way. This 
appeared to me a most interesting and noteworthy fact — a 
sadhiL wandering over India with the aid of the English 
language. He told me he was from the extreme south of 
India, " near Cape Comorin," and that Tamil was his native 
tongue. However, his appearance showed me he was no 
Dravidian, and, on my questioning him a little, he admitted 
that he was a Guzrati by race, but was born and reared in 
the extreme south of India. Our sadhu felt the import- 
ance of his little book so much, that, uninvited, he exhibited 
and explained some of the quaint illustrations to me. One 
represented a curious river, the Vitarni (difficult to be 
crossed), barring the way to Swarga, through which, how- 
ever, a passage could be successfully made by the spirits of 
such men as during their earthly life had prudently made 
gifts of cows to the Brahmans, this meritorious act en- 
titling the generous donor to take hold of the tail of one of 

221 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the sacred cows in the river and to be towed across to the 
other bank of this terrible Hindu Styx. On my suggesting 
that under these circumstances he should not fail to pre- 
sent cows to the Brahmans, the sadhu laughed pleasantly 
and said, " You will give to me, and I will give to them," 
a view of the case with which, needless to say, I did not 
quite fall in. The Vitarni river is a favourite subject with 
the Hindu artist, who loves to impress upon the worldly- 
minded the dangers of its swollen flood, and the best, per- 
haps the only, way of reaching its farther side. 

Another picture in the sadhu's precious book made 
evident how pindas offered to the souls of the dead supply 
materials for the gradual reconstruction of the body in nine 
consecutive months, the head being the first part to be 
re-created. The nine stages of reconstruction were all 
separately and successively depicted upon the same page. 

The Brahmachari said he had come from the south 
especially to see the far-famed Devali festival at Amritsar, 
and intended going on to Hardwar in order to be present 
there at the eclipse of the moon on the 27th of December. 
He dreaded nothing in his pleasant wanderings except the 
officers on plague duty, who, he said, gave a great deal of 
trouble to innocent travellers. 

Sanyasis were not held in much esteem by this young 
Brahmachari. He considered them " bad men," because 
they did not perform the prescribed ceremonies for the 
dead, and practised interment instead of cremation. An 
Indian gentleman who was present during the interview 
said that he had seen Sanyasis" bodies disposed of by 
simply sinking them, wdth stones or bags of sand, in a 
flowing stream. He laughed, and so did the Brahmachari^ 
when I remarked that in this way the rivers were polluted 
and rendered insalubrious. They deprecated this notion, 
holding that, as the sacred water furified all things, it 
could not itself be polluted by anything. 

6. A Sadhu of European Descent at Simla. 

Exceedingly rare indeed, as one may well imagine, are 
non- Indian sadhus^ yet such are not quite unknown. 

222 




A SADHU OF EUKOPEAX DESCENT. 



Fig. 12. 



To face fage 222. 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

Some years ago at Simla, tlie summer capital of the Indian 
Government, I interviewed one Charles de Russette, a young 
man of French descent, who, although brought up as a 
Christian and properly educated in Bishop Cotton's school 
in that town, had, while a mere boy, embraced the life of a 
sadhik I understood that he had inherited some property, 
which he made over to his sisters, reserving nothing for 
himself. Why he abandoned Christianity for Hinduism I 
did not find out, as he was disinclined to talk about the 
matter ; but, whatever the cause which severed him from 
European life and thought, it was evident that he did not 
regret the step he had taken, and that he was well satisfied 
with his condition and mode of hfe as a Hindu devotee — 
a Sanyasi, I think. 

Judging from outward appearances, the man had not 
suffered any such physical inconveniences as would affect 
his health, and he was particularly well clothed, though not 
in any sadhu style that I have ever seen. He informed 
me that he Hved his solitary life in the neighbourhood of 
Simla throughout the year, even in winter, when the snow 
lay deep upon the mountains. Of his fellow sadhus he 
spoke in terms of high praise, and assured me that he had 
seen Yogi adepts perform many most wonderful acts. Of 
virtue and vice he discoursed in the usual way, maintain- 
ing that it was not necessary to be a Christian in order to 
lead a virtuous life. De Russette's intellectual capac ty 
seemed of a very ordinary kind, but I have no doubt he 
commands the highest respect from the natives, and lives 
idly, happy and contented, without any anxiety about the 
morrow. 

The photograph reproduced here (Fig. 12) is an 
excellent likeness of the man as I saw him at Simla in 
1894. 

7. A Naked Sanyasi and his Companion, 
A Princess of B . 

Information that an interesting group of sadhus was 
encamped on the maidan (open plain) near the Lahore Fort 
having reached me, I went there one morning to make the 

223 



THE MYSTICS, ASGETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

acquaintance of the visitors and increase my stock of 
knowledge about sadhuism. 

The leaders of the party were a naked Sanyasi, and 
an almost naked Sanyasin who let people understand that 
she was a widowed and childless daughter of the Rajah of 

B . Not many minutes' conversation with the sadhu 

were needed to satisfy me that he was at best a shameless 
reprobate, but, as I thought his portrait would enrich my 
collection, I expressed a wish to take a photograph of him 
and his followers. This suggestion tickled his vanity, and 
he had the effrontery, though I am sure he did not wish 
to be impertinent, to offer to have himself taken in a most 
objectionable and unseemly attitude, which would demon- 
strate his viriHty to the greatest advantage. His female 
companion was, I should say, under twenty-five years of 
age, and not particularly attractive. She wore her hair 
cut short and bleached a sort of yellow-brown, while the 
Sanyasi wore a respectable beard, and had his long, neatly 
plaited hair wound round his head, and kept in place by 
a bit of a turban of dark-coloured cotton cloth. Both of 
them had ashes rubbed over their persons. Three or four 
sadhus, one of them a Kanphata Yogi, had joined these 
worthies as travelhng companions. A boy devotee of 
about twelve years of age also belonged to the company, 
and seemed devoted to the Sanyasin. 

While I conversed with the sadhus under a group of 
trees, there was a small and ever-changing gathering of 
about two hundred persons round these queer, though 
evidently much respected, wanderers. Most of the visitors 
had dropped in, as it were, to pay their respects to the 
sadhus after having had their morning bath in the river. 
The naked mendicant and his companion, the almost nude 
Sanyasin, were not edifying sights ; yet women, girls, and 
children of respectable families were all gazing at them 
reverentially, without any sign of shame or bashfulness. 
They were holy privileged people these sadhus, and not 
to be regarded with ordinary eyes or judged by customary 
standards. Yet, whilst I was present, a protest was raised 
by some Aryas — sectarians of a new school — against the 
Sanyasi^s nudeness. Angry accusations and bitter retorts 

224 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

were exchanged, and in the course of the altercation the 
Sanyasi tried to turn the tables upon his censors by 
asking them significantly what they gained by deserting 
the rehgion of their ancestors.^ 

Meanwhile, as a sort of practical reply to the Arya 
objectors, offerings were accumulating near the sadhus — 
wheat, flour, rice, lentils, ghee, and also copper and silver 
coins. It was plain that the Sanyasi and his companions 
were in favour and hot faring badly. As we conversed, the 
leader of the party, followed by the woman and then by the 
others, indulged in the luxury of pipes of charas, exhaling 
wonderful volumes of dense white smoke from their lungs. 
Just a pull or two was quite enough for each one, for the 
smoke was so pungent that it had to be drawn through 
a wet cloth applied to the bottom of the tall chillum or 
pipe which is used in charas-smoking. 

At this visit it was arranged that the group should be 
photographed by me the next morning. When, at the 
appointed time, I came to the camping-ground with my 
camera, I found to my surprise that the sadhus had all 
disappeared, leaving not a trace behind them. However, I 
was bent on having their portraits if possible, and, after 
patient inquiries and no little discouragement, followed 
them up to a little temple of Siva near one of the city 
gates. They were dismayed when they saw me, for the}' 
had been artfully told I was a police officer and wished to 
have their photographs in order to get them into trouble. 
I learned also that the principal sadhu had been forced 
by the Aryas to put on a rag about his loins. He and a 
number of Hindu men who were present at the temple — 
710 women visitors were there — informed me that the ascetics 
had been very badly used by the Aryas, who had scattered 
and spoiled all the offerings which had been made to them, 
and even caused their plates and utensils to be looted. 
How much truth there was in these allegations I cannot 
say, but the Aryas knew me very well, and no doubt 
surmised that I was in quest of materials for a book, and, 
possibly, it did not suit these sectarians to have the naked 

^ An account of the rise and progress of the Aryas will be found in my 
Indian Life, Religious and Social. 

V 225 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sadhu described for European readers, hence their opposi- 
tion and interference. However, the soothing influence of 
two or three rupees enabled me to dispel the suspicions 
aroused in the minds of the Sanyasi and his supporters 
and to secure the photograph I wanted. This I have now 
much pleasure in reproducing (Fig. 13), as it is, I am 
inclined to tiiink, unique in its character. 

8. A Sadhu of Royal Lineage — " Prince Bir 

Bhanu Singh." 

On the 21st of May 1899, at the Sankalwalla 
monastery, alongside the Golden Temple of Amritsar, I 
interviewed a young sadhu of about thirty years of age, who 
had aroused my interest by claiming to be a son of Maharajah 
Duleep Singh. Now, Duleep Singh was the infant King 
of the Punjab when that country was annexed by the 
British in 1849. He was removed to England, embraced 
Christianity there, lived the hfe of an English gentleman, 
and, in his old age, offended by what he considered the 
parsimony of the Government towards him, tried to 
foment sedition in the Punjab with a view to his own 
restoration to the throne of his father, the famous Ranjit 
Singh. 

The sadhu who claimed to be Ranjit's grandson said 
he was born in England, and stated that, a few months 
before his arrival at Amritsar, he had met another son 
of the late Maharajah Duleep Singh. The young man, 
who had a weak face, mild grey eyes, and did not look 
particularly robust, was under the surveillance of two 
policemen not in uniform. My advent was the excuse for 
a number of idlers to congregate. A chair was brought 
for me. Two men who accompanied me squatted with 
the sadhu on his mat under the roof of a long vaulted 
arcade — a cloister, in fact. 

My host, if I may so designate him, informed me that 
he had been brought to India when very young, and had 
been educated at Benares. Who his mother was I did 
not like to inquire. I had a pandit with me who 
conversed with the sadhu, and afterwards assured me 

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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

that he had some tincture of Sanskrit learning, and that 
his pronunciation was that of a native of Bengal. I 
ascertained for myself that he had a very imperfect, or 
perhaps I should rather say a very elementary, knowledge 
of English. He affirmed that he was in faith a Sikh (pro- 
nouncing the word seek as the Bengalis do), though he had 
not adopted Sikh customs and outward symbols. As to 
philosophy, he was a Vedantist of very liberal opinions, 
but belonged to no sect ; that is, he had not been initiated 
into any particular order or brotherhood. He read to us 
in Sanskrit from a sheet of ordinary letter-paper the 
religious views he had formed, and these were expounded 
to me, bit by bit, in Hindi by the pandit who was my 
companion. 

All the while the sadhu was clearly very nervous, 
his hands trembling visibly as he stated and explained 
his ideas. Lying on the mat near him was a portion of 
a copy of the New Testament in English, and when I 
made some reference to it the sadhu spoke of Nanak and 
Christ with equal reverence ; but, a minute after, he 
somewhat discounted his admiration by adding that there 
were thousands of Nanaks and Christs. According to his 
opinion, everyone should have a guru ; but he admitted that 
it was not necessary for Christ to have had one. . 

The princely ascetic hinted, somewhat darkly, that he 
too had a message to deliver to the world, and that it was 
connected with the Bible ; but apparently the time for 
proclaiming it had not arrived. 

As I was leaving he mentioned to me that he 
practised yoga. " Do you ? " I said. " Yes," was the 
smiling reply ; " that is the only way to love God with 
all your heart." 

The well-dressed sadhu and his official escort are 
depicted in the annexed photograph (Fig. 14). 

A young graduate of the Punjab University who had 
accompanied me in my visit to the sadhu entertained a 
strange suspicion (they are wonderfully suspicious these 
educated Indians) that this man was really a Government 
spy, playing a character and employed as a sort of decoy 
to test the loyalty of the Sikh community. For my part, 

227 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

I could not help expressing a hope that the poor fellow 
was not a wretched tool in the hands of unscrupulous 
agitators. 

I subjoin without verbal alteration a curious printed 
leaflet in strange English which the sadhu " Prince Bir 
Bhanu Singh " was good enough to hand to me as we 
parted. 

"good commendments of holy bible. 

" carnel minded man ! thou better clean thy own flesh 
and teach other the same salvation said by Lord Christ. 
Who has not enjoyed this ; he is not of him. To whom 
he hath said to be child to keep his sayings. 

" carnel minded man ! not fail, to keep his sayings ; 
believe him early. Be sure, he came from Almighty power. 
Heaven is witness of this, therefore every Pall, want to 
oblige both king to people with this God comendments 
if they are without this. 

" carnel minded man ! of this world ! believe my 
pen that he is above because the heaven can't entice him, 
who hath come to know the best work of Lord Christ. 

" carnel minded man ! Christ hath Bent closely well 
all his hearts unto God. And hath fought best against all 
world. He is found only teacher of open heart, who is 
not of him ; therefore he can oblige them both king to 
people with good comendments said by him. 

" carnel minded man ! beseech you ! that you have 
done wrong all without the best knowledge teached by 
glorified son of Almighty father. He has nothing with 
you but only the same salvation as he taught to his Pall 
to purify first "his own flesh and then love God with all 
hearts ; because without this, none can caught the same 
light as they did thyself before their advocate Lord 
Christ. 

" carnel mind ! you are blind to find out the same 
light told by the holy tongue because you are not cleaned 
after the same manner as Pall learned with Christ, 
therefore you are bound to follow the best work of him. 
If you fail to do so, you are obliged to keep his sayings 
as child. 

228 







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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

" camel minded man ! I believe now that you in 
net, as the sun light the day, and the moon light the night, 
but God is only perfect to enlight the heart of prayer, 
therefore thou better taste of this enjoyment. 

" carnel minded man ! he enjoy the same salvation 
as the holy work of Almighty father and glorified son 
Lord's Lord Christ. Who spoked very boldly that I know 
none. my beloved father give them knowledge to be 
well wisher unto you. 

" carnel minded man ! his father and he both are 
of one mind and his Pall enjoy the same salvation as they 
did themselves, therefore ye be follower after them ; you 
shall see no death. 

" carnel minded man ! without this enjoyment you 
better be child to keep his sayings without discussion. 
He can then take you out from the room of death and can 
give you a seat in the house of Almighty father. 

" carnel minded man ! you fear by every step, 
because God is creator of all things. Do best for thyself. 
Be sure, that a blind man can trouble other's face with a 
burn torch but can not give road exactly, therefore you are 
bound to follow the best work of him." 

Prince 
BiR Bhanu Singh. 
An Advocate of Holy 
Enghsh Bible. 
Songola Akhara 
Amritsar 
Punjab." 



4. 6. 99. 
Bearer. 
Hor Doyal Agni Hoiri 
of Kanoos. 



9. A Sadhu who had found God. 

He had never had occasion to do a day's work in his 
life, explained a sadhu who, in order to make my acquaint- 
ance, paid me a visit in 1895. He had inherited sufi&cient 
property in his native village to render any labour for a 
livelihood quite unnecessary in his case. He had faithfully 
done his duty to his family and to society, having had 
sons and grandsons born unto him, and for two-and-twenty 

229 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

years he had very strictly performed the ceremoiiies pre- 
scribed by his religion, down to the minutest and most 
trying details. 

At length one day his steady and prolonged devotion 
to duty met with recognition. A voice came to him 
saying, " I am with thee, thou art clean, refrain henceforth 
from all these observances." The voice was a clear and 
audible voice, Hke that of one man speaking to another, not 
a voice in the heart or the inner consciousness. 

Convinced that it was the voice of God which spoke 
thus unto him, he obeyed its command unhesitatingly. 
Some months later the same voice said to him, " Thou 
hast nothing to do with property, or with family ties. Go 
forth from thy home. I am with thee always." He 
resigned all his property forthwith to his children, distri- 
buted five hundred and twenty-five rupees in cash amongst 
the poor, cancelled all debts due to him, and wandered 
forth alone. 

" I don't believe in Shastras or Vedas or Mantras,^^ 
said the sadhu to me, " I have God ! " Catechised on 
this point, my visitor admitted that such things as Vedas 
and the like were useful for worldlings, but not for one 
who had found God. To whom was he to pray when God 
was alvjays with him, guiding and instructing him ? 

However, with all his emancipation from theological 
and ceremonial restraints, the sadhu, I found out, was not 
prepared to eat food which had been handled or even 
touched by me. He had not, as yet, received God's 
permission to do so much as that. The hereditary caste 
prejudice was too strongly ingrained in him, too essential a 
portion of his very nature, to be lightly set aside even by 
this enfranchised Hindu. 

My visitor boasted that he took no medicine when 
he got sick, and that he recovered his health without 
the aid of any physician. " When my appointed time 
comes, who can save my life ? " said he. " And, till 
the predestined moment has arrived, how can I possibly 
die ? " 

The ascetic was comfortably and cleanly dressed in an 
orange-coloured dhoty or loin cloth and a long hurta or 

230 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

tiinic of tlie same tint, and wore a small, neatly tied 
turban. But for the colour of liis clothes, it would not 
have been possible to recognise in this man a professed 
sadhu. 

He had discarded the sacred thread although entitled to 
wear it, being a Kshatriya by birth ; but he had not been 
initiated into any of the existing sects or orders of Hindu 
ascetics. 

He did not speak of Siva or Vishnu, but only of God. 

A few days after the sadliiCs ^dsit to me, I learned, 
without surprise, that he had not been quite disinterested 
in seeking my acquaintance. What he really wanted, and 
applied for, was pecuniary help to print and circulate a 
pamphlet or booklet of a religious character of which he 
was himself the author. 

10. A Sun-Worshipping Bairagi. 

Not far from the Shahalmi gate of Lahore city, outside 
the walls, are some fine peepul trees. About the foot of one 
of these a circular earthen platform had been constructed 
about three feet above the ground-level, with rude steps 
leading up to it. Passing this spot, I noticed three or four 
women seated on the platform conversing with a sadhu, 
a handsome dark fellow, not over-clothed, with his hair in 
a great coil upon his head. Another ascetic was standing 
on one leg facing the trunk of the tree, his head enveloped 
in a loose cloth resembling a napkin, and his face uplifted 
towards the sun, which was shining through the branches 
of the tree. Well worth closer study was this group ; and 
so I paused to regard it, and to learn, if possible, something 
about the sadhus. The man standing on one leg was 
going through certain devotions. In his left hand he 
held a bag containing a rosary, and, with his right in- 
serted in the bag, he counted his beads wliile he muttered 
certain prayers or prescribed religious formulas. I photo- 
graphed him in tliis position (Fig. 15). When he had 
finished his prayers, he stood, still on one leg, before a tiny 
brass idol of Ramachandra which had been placed against 
the tree, almost smothered under a profusion of marigold 

231 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

flowers. The sadhu now poured out three shells full of 
water before the idol, made certain obeisances, and went 
to the other side of the tree. There, again on one leg, 
and facing the bright unclouded sun, he muttered his 
prayers to the great luminary. At first he held one hand 
outstretched towards Surya ; then he entwined the fingers 
of the two hands together in strange ways ; next held his 
hands, with palms opposed, towards the sun-god ; and, lastly, 
extended both his hands appealingly towards the grand 
object of his worship. Uttering some Sanskrit words in 
a loud voice, he brought his devotions to an end by a 
libation of a conch full of water to the sun. After turning 
round three times, he went back to the other side of the 
tree and sat down. He was now free to converse with 
visitors, so I addressed him, and learned that he was a 
Bairagi whose native place was Benares. He said he had 
been to Kashmir to visit Amar Nath, that he had been 
favoured by the Maharajah of Jummu, and was in the 
receipt of a subsistence allowance granted him by that 
chief. He also spoke of the favours he had received from 
the Kajah of Baroda. All this, of course, to raise him in 
my estimation. 

The Bairagi had been a year in Lahore, living under 
the peepul tree where I found him. His place of abode — 
the raised earthen platform — was smooth, clean, and well 
swept. On it were piled in one place a lot of wood fuel, 
both dry and green. A smouldering fire declared its 
presence by the white smoke it gave off into the breezy 
atmosphere. There were three or four garments lying in a 
heap together, which I presume were the Bairagi"* s bedding 
and covering during the night. Near the diminutive idol 
stood a gourd-shaped brass vessel, which seemed to be 
quite new, and a huge peculiar serpentine trumpet. 

When I opened conversation with the Bairagi, my 
attendant, well versed in such matters, offered him, very 
respectfully, a couple of rupees, which, no doubt, helped to 
place us at once on a friendly footing. It is true the 
sadhu did not touch the money, but indicated by a gesture 
that it might be placed on a mat near him. I could see 
that he kept a watchful eye on it for a few minutes ; he 






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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

then quietly signed to one of his chelas to remove the silver 
coins. As to his habits, the Bairagi assured me that he 
did not smoke charas nor drink bhang. Tobacco was the 
only luxury in which he indulged, and while I was with 
him he disposed of a chillum (pipe) of it to his own 
enjoyment. 

When I first arrived at the Bairagi^s platform there 
were very few people about — only the three or four women 
to whom I have already referred, and a small party of 
children playing under the trees ; but my presence soon 
brought a crowd round us, for we were close to a public 
thoroughfare. Near by was a women's bathing-place in 
the canal, concealed from pubHc view by a sheet-iron 
screen. From behind this enclosure, as I conversed with 
the Bairagi, emerged a woman in dripping garments, 
exposing a good deal of her shapely person. Two elderly 
attendants waited upon her as she changed her wet clothes 
without much affectation or ceremony, and seated herself on 
a stool in the sunshine to have her long black tresses dried 
and otherwise attended to. The woman was certainly fair 
to look upon, and the thought struck me that the spot 
was well chosen by the Bairagis for their sojourn, if they 
wished to conquer, and not flee ignominiously from, 
certain temptations against which frail humanity is not 
usually very strong. Perhaps, however, the saints were 
not quite so heroic, or so foolish, as I have imagined, and 
were guided to the selection of that particular place for 
their camping-ground merely by a keen eye to pecuniary 
results ; since, after all, it is the women-folk who are the 
best supporters of sadhuism in India or elsewhere. 

11. Yogis and Pious Women. 

A party of half a dozen or more Yogis came to Lahore 
and made themselves somewhat conspicuous by occupying 
favourable positions alongside some of the main thorough- 
fares. One of these sadhus used to sit at the meeting 
of three roads, and was the object of a great deal of 
attention, especially from the women, who paid their 
respects to Maharaj as they went by him on their 

233 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

homeward journey after the daily matutinal bath in the 
river Ravi. 

These good creatures were much exercised in mind 
at seeing the holy ascetics eating pinches of wood ashes 
from time to time, and some, more devout or more im- 
pulsive than the others, begged one of the Yogis to permit 
them to minister to his wants. He haughtily declined 
their assistance ; but to one pious lady, more pressing 
than the rest in her offers of service, he condescended 
to explain that he had taken a vow never to lift a morsel 
of food (or anything but ashes) to his mouth with his 
own hand. " Permit me, Maharaj," said the ministrant 
fair one, " to feed you with my own hands. It will be 
an honour to me and mine." 

The saint good-naturedly, but still reluctantly, yielded 
the point. Henceforth the favoured one fed his saintship 
daily, and so did one or tw^o other women — amongst them 
a beautiful girl of about sixteen years of age. Every day, 
when the Yogi had partaken of as much food as he cared 
for, he would bless the remainder, bidding his kind friends 
to partake of it themselves. 

The regular meal-time of the lucky Yogi became an 
event of interest to the passers-by, and a certain man, 
who probably lived or had his place of business in the 
immediate neighbourhood, was in the habit of coming to 
watch the proceedings. Observing, perhaps with a pang 
of jealousy, the beautiful young girl I have alluded to 
feeding the almost naked Yogi with her own delicate 
fingers, this discontented spectator ventured to wonder in 
audible terms whether she was as attentive to her husband 
as she was to the saint. Of course the young wife, 
drawing her veil over her face bashfully, suggested that 
the rude fellow might mind his own business ; but the 
Yogi, irritated by his impertinence, showered a volley of 
abuse upon him, desiring him at the same time to take 
himself off and not stand there staring at his betters. 
Uncomplimentary epithets were freely exchanged, till the 
ascetic, losing his temper, threw his stick at the intruder, 
but without effect. He next hurled a piece of lighted 
firewood at the man, and, more successful this time, 

234 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

struck his adversary on the arm, with the result that he 
was sHghtly burnt. 

In a rage — hterally a burning rage now — the meddle- 
some fellow flew at the sadhu and beat him soundly 
with a stick. Bystanders in horror hastened to interfere, 
when a new arrival, pressing forward to see what the 
excitement was about, grasped the situation and laughingly 
exclaimed; " Oh, , so you have come here, have you ? " 

Noticing his familiar mode of address, several present 
queried with surprise, " Do you know the Maharaj ? 
Whence does he come ? " and so on. 

''' Who is he ? Why , the son of , a cJioorah 

(sweeper) by caste, and I see that there are several of 
his caste-mates not far off." 

" A choorah ? Are you sure ? " came from many 
voices. 

" I should rather think I am sure — he is one of my 
own beraderi. Have I not known him since he was a 
child ? " 

This disclosure was like a bolt out of the blue ! 

" Tola ! toha ! " said the horrified bystanders. " And 
these respectable ladies have been feeding chooraJis 
with their own hands and eating their contaminated 
leavings." 

The pious women victimised by the Yogi veiled their 
faces closely and fled without a word, overwhelmed with 
shame and anxiety. " Toha I toha ! " passed from mouth 
to mouth, and the crowd was moved by mingled feelings 
of merriment, indignation, and disgust at the discomfiture 
and punishment of the low-caste Yogi,^ and at the terrible 
— how terrible only the Hindu knows — predicament in 
which the women zealous of good works had quite innocently 
placed themselves and their families. 

12. A pseudo-Sai3hu and his Adventures. 

At a public meeting I heard a well-dressed man, 
evidently a Sikh, referring, not without sly humour and 
a touch of conscious pride, to the days when, as a 
^ I did not learn whether these men were real Yogis, or only pretenders. 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

^seudo-sadhu, he had successfully eluded the vigilance of 
the police, living unrecognised amongst many real sadhus, 
men of true piety and estimable character. 

Naturally, I wished to know something more about 
this man and his experiences. My inquiries eventually 
led to my learning the following story of his adventures 
from a Sikh gentleman, who assured me that he had heard 
it from the qnondsLin-sadhu himself. The details may or 
may not be accurate — most likely the latter ; but the main 
features of the narrative are probably those accepted by 
the public and known in the bazaars. 

Being implicated in some way in certain seditious 
movements in connection with political designs of the late 
Maharajah Duleep Singh which caused a flutter in the 
Punjab a few years ago, the Sikh in question was arrested 
by order of the Government, and detained as a prisoner in 
the fort of Lahore in charge of the military authorities. 

The cell in which he was confined was in an upper 
storey, and opened upon the flat terrace roof of one of 
the buildings. It was guarded by British soldiers ; but 
nevertheless the hope of effecting an escape from his 
jailers did not desert the captive. It was the custom for 
the relieving sentry to open the door of the cell and 
satisfy himself of the actual presence of the prisoner there, 
before he commenced his watch upon the roof-top. 

Day followed day, and the hope of escape became less 
and less, when one night the soldier who came to take 
over charge, being slightly the worse for liquor, care- 
lessly omitted to lock the cell door securely. The long- 
wished-for hour had come. Listening breathlessly to the 
monotonous tramp, tramp of the sentry as he walked to 
and fro, the prisoner seized the most favourable moment 
to effect his escape, and, moving rapidly and silently with 
bare feet across an open space, crept up to the parapet. 
The night was clear enough to show him that a jump down 
from that position was not to be thought of, but the flat 
roof of a less lofty building was much nearer than the 
surface of the country outside, and seemed to aftord a 
gleam of hope to one prepared to take no ordinary risks. 
The fine old fort of the Mogul emperors had long since 

236 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

seen its best days, and was in many places crumbling 
away. The SiT^h cautiously dislodged a brick or two ; lie 
then unwound his long turban, and, tying a brick to one 
end of it, flung it over the projecting branch of a tree 
which most opportunely was growing in a very convenient 
position. By the aid of the bough and the long turban 
cloth the prisoner reached the roof below. The rest was 
comparatively easy work. From the lower roof which he 
had gained he dropped into the courtyard of a small 
temple, scaled its comparatively low walls, and found 
himself on the roadway outside the fortifications. 

Already the prisoner was missed, and the hue-and-cry 
had been raised in the fort, while the earliest indications 
of approacliing dawn showing upon the eastern sky warned 
him that there was not a moment to be lost. 

With all the speed he could command, the escaped 
prisoner made for the river side, and concealed himself 
in the almost impenetrable forest of tall reeds and bul- 
rushes which skirts the margin of the Ravi. All day 
he lay low, and, when night came on, made his way to a 
small village somewhat off the beaten track. There was 
no serai or recognised rest-house for travellers here, so, in 
accordance with the usual custom in the Punjab, our Sikh 
malcontent sought the hospitality of the village barber, 
who gave him shelter and some food. The Sikh took 
especial note of the place where the barber kept the 
instruments of his craft, and during the night quietly 
abstracted a razor and a pair of scissors. Provided with 
these, he retired to a lonely place, cut off his long hair 
and beard as well as he could, and then shaved his head 
and face quite clean. No longer was he a Sikh, no longer 
a rebel, but only a poor sadhu bound on a pilgrimage to 
Hardwar on the holy Ganges. The good folks he met 
helped him along, and he at last reached the sacred river 
and fell in with many sadhus there. With some of these 
he fraternised, and in their company wandered about from 
place to place for some months. 

In the course of his rovings he came to Meerut, and 
at this important town, by putting apparently casual 
questions to various visitors who came to pay their respects 

237 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

to Sadhu-ji, he learned, to his great delight, that Govern- 
ment had granted a free pardon to all who had been 
concerned in the Duleep Singh affair. Nothing could 
restrain his joy. He repudiated his sadhuism forthwith, 
bade his kind companions farewell, and hastened home 
to learn all that had occurred amongst his kinsfolk and 
friends during his concealment under disguise as a religious 
mendicant. 

13. Yogi Guests. 

A pious Hindu, desirous of securing the blessing of 
Heaven, went to an encampment of Yogis outside the city 
and humbly invited their reverences to partake of a meal 
at his poor house. They graciously accepted the invita- 
tion, and preparations were duly made for their entertain- 
ment. When the time for their arrival was at hand, the 
host bid his wife retire to the upper chambers of the house, 
as he did not desire her presence in an assembly of men, 
even of Yogis. She went upstairs and sat at a window, to 
watch the arrival of the guests. She counted them as 
they entered, in her anxiety that there should be enough 
food for them all. There were twenty arrivals. 

The feast being over, and the guests about to depart, 
the hostess took her seat at the same window once more, 
so that she might know when they were all gone, as she 
wished to come down as soon as possible to learn how my 
lords had fared. Only nineteen, as she told them off on 
her fingers, left the house, and so she remained upstairs, 
wondering impatiently what the twentieth man could be 
doing. 

Her husband called her down ; but, remembering how 
curtly he had dismissed her when the holy men were 
about to arrive at the house, she replied that she would 
descend when all the guests had gone. Her husband 
assured her that all had departed, and desired her to come 
at once and look after things, as he wished to show his 
respect to the Yogis by attending them back to their en- 
campment. She came down, explained the cause of her 
hesitation, and, as became a good housewife, commenced at 
once attending to the pots and pans and the brass plates 

238 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

which had been used by the guests. Her husband then 
went out in a hurry to catch up the holy sadhus on their 
homeward journey. 

Female neighbours, who, curious to hear all about the 
feast, had been waiting to visit the hostess as early as the 
proprieties would allow, were surprised on approaching 
the house to notice a young Yogi coming out of it after the 
master had gone away. He had a pretty big bundle tucked 
away under his arm, and was making oft hurriedly. Some 
women who were intimate friends of the family, not dis- 
inclined for a bit of gossip, ventured to ask him as he 
passed along how he happened to stay back after all his 
companions had departed followed by the master of the 
house. 

He explained that two or three men of his party, 
though invited, had not been able to attend the feast, and 
that his good hostess had kindly cooked a special supply 
of food for them, which he was taking with him. Hence 
the delay. " But, Maharaj," remarked the women, still 
willing to have a chat, " food is never carried in a bundle 
like that, but in plates or baskets. Your hostess should 
have thought of that." 

While some were thus interviewing the holy man, who 
seemed to be pressed for time and anxious to move on, 
others had entered the house, and there, to their horror, 
came upon a ghastly scene — the unfortunate hostess lying 
dead, in a pool of her own blood, despoiled of the better 
part of her clothing and all the valuable gold and silver 
ornaments she was in the habit of wearing. 

The visitors, shocked and terrified, ran after the Yogi, 
raising an alarm, and it was not long before he was appre- 
hended. The cruel murderer had apparently managed to 
cleverly conceal himself somewhere in the house, till his 
host's departure afforded him the opportunity of carrying 
out his nefarious design. 

14. A Sadhu as Restaurateur. 

Sadhus toil not, neither do they spin, and yet they are 
fed, and not scantily either, even when they assemble in 

239 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

large numbers, sometimes in tlieir thousands, at the 
rehgious fairs, held periodically at sacred places through- 
out India. 

Entering a much visited enclosure at one of these 
melas, I found a sadhu, with his chelas and some huge 
iron cauldrons. The sadhu, I was informed, fed his 
ascetic brethren, and whoever else came to him, twice a 
day. 

My visit was not made at meal-time, but there were 
in one of the immense cauldrons some fifteen gallons of 
milk being gently warmed. Thinking that the sadhu 
might have pecuniary resources of his own, or that the 
extemporised kitchen was carried on at the expense of some 
moneyed persons, I inquired where the needful funds came 
from, and was informed pointedly that everybody contri- 
buted towards it ; and so, after my inquisitiveness, I felt 
constrained to do likewise. It would seem that the sadhu, 
having secured the use of some huge cauldrons and other 
necessary cooldng-pots of proportionately large dimensions, 
together with the services of a few willing helps, set up, 
advertised, and opened, without hesitation or misgiving, his 
restaurant for the free supply of food to ascetics and other 
hungry souls, for he knew the generous public would do 
the rest for him. 

His confident expectations were fully realised, and his 
kitchen was a great success. 

15. A Saint in Chains. 

The ascetic whose portrait is given in an earlier portion 
of this volume, p. 48, although a Muslim, deserves a 
passing notice here, not only on account of the unusual 
nature of his self-inflicted torture, but more particularly 
for the motive which prompted it. 

Some Indian newspapers in 1891 drew attention to a 
faquir who was moving about the country under a heavy 
self-imposed burden of massive iron chains. This ascetic 
happening to come my way, I found an opportunity of 
interviewing him in his temporary abode in the native 
quarter of Lahore. He was a tall, large-boned man, under 

240 



PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SADHUS 

fifty years of age, and, though much emaciated by his 
austerities, retained ample evidence of a naturally vigorous 
physique. 

Accompanied by my son, I ascended to the upper room 
where Sabit Alii Shah, surnamed Sankal-Walah, or the man 
of chains, was putting up, and where he was expecting our 
visit. We found him stretched upon a mat, heavily weighted 
with iron chains. 

According to the hasty judgments of some Europeans 
who had referred to Sankal-Walah in the public prints, 
the ascetic, conscience-stricken, was expiating his sins by the 
torture of his body ; but I ascertained, in conversation with 
him, that the object and motive of his austerities were 
something very different indeed. He had, it appeared, 
suffered grave injustice at the hands of certain influential 
persons, and, unable or unwilling to take vengeance upon 
them personally, he imposed this heavy burden upon him- 
self, in the hope that God would pity his misery and mete 
out just punishment to his enemies. 

After some persuasion, I was able to get the faquir to 
stand to us for his photograph. He was so weak, and his 
chains so heavy, that it was no easy matter to get him on 
his feet, or to keep him standing for even a few moments. 
However, my son was able to secure a satisfactory photo- 
graph of the ascetic, as the reproduction in Chapter III. 
will show. 

The faquir subsequently informed me by letter that he 
was raising a subscription for the performance of a cere- 
mony at which he would formally lay aside his chains. 
These, I understood, would be deposited at the shrine of 
the famous saint. Data Ganj Bakhsh. Whether the wished- 
for vengeance had overtaken Sabit AUi Shah's enemies, 
or the time limit fixed by himself i6T carrying the chains 
had expired, I cannot tell ; but this I know, that the 
money required for the ceremony was not forthcoming, and 
that the unhappy faquir, still burdened with his load of 
iron, left Lahore in disgust and despair. 



241 



CHAPTER X 



SOME SADHVIS OR FEMALE DEVOTEES 



1. A public Lecturer, Srimati Pandita Mai Jivan Mukut. 2. Shri Maji, 
the Recluse of Annandgupha. 3. Premi, a young Sadhvi who em- 
braced Christianity. 

NCE only have I had the 
pleasure of listening to 
an Indian woman lectur- 
ing with unveiled face 
to a mixed audience in 
public, and that woman 
was a professed sadhvi 
or female ascetic, who, 
whatever her real name 
may have been, was, 
since the adoption of 
the new life, known as 
Srimati Pandita Mai 
Jivan Mukut. She was, 
I understood, a native of Jummu in Kashmir territory, 
and a widow. She had studied some Sanskrit, was fairly 
well read in Hindi and Punjabi literature, and so great 
was her zeal for the spread of knowledge that she had 
opened a school for girls in her native town. 

Her appearance before the world in the character 
of a lecturer was very distasteful to her people and to 
her late husband's family ; but she, having quite emanci- 
pated herself from the prejudices of her countrymen, cared 
not for these things. 

i' When I attended her lecture in the spacious courtyard 
of a house in Amritsar, her reputation, appreciation of her 
rare abilities, or perhaps merely idle curiosity, had brought 

242 




SOME SADHVIS OR FEMALE DEVOTEES 

together a large crowd, including a great number of Hindu 
ladies of the better classes, with their children, all eager to 
listen to the words of wisdom which might fall from the 
sadhvi's lips. 

At first the ladies with their little ones occupied a 
place apart, but, as their numbers swelled and their interest 
in the proceedings increased, they gradually edged them- 
selves into more favourable places, at the same time 
observing only a very nominal purdah, 

A preliminary speech was made by the chairman in 
the ordinary way, and then the lecturer's guru, a portly 
middle-aged sadhu, who, if appearances were not decep- 
tive, basked in Fortune's smiles, made some complimentary 
remarks about his very interesting pupil. Other speakers 
followed in the style usually adopted on such occasions. 

When the event of the afternoon was at length 
reached, Jivan Mukut took up her position on a raised 
platform, and, standing up with unveiled face and a 
remarkable absence of self -consciousness, proceeded to 
expound the duties of women. To help her, she had 
a few notes in the form of couplets or verses composed 
by herself, which filled, I think, barely a sheet of note- 
paper, and served as the texts of the successive portions 
of her speech. 

She read out, in its proper turn, the appropriate verse, 
and then, with reference to it, went on to illustrate the 
points she wished to explain or emphasise by frequent 
allusions to stories in the sacred epics and Puranas. 
For considerably over an hour she held the undivided 
attention of her audience, as with wonderful fluency of 
expression and apt illustrations she expounded the duties 
of her sex and strongly advocated the education of women. 
Sadhvi or not, unworldly or otherwise, Jivan Mukut, clever 
and self-possessed, undoubtedly appreciated to the full the 
applause which frequently interrupted her very sensible 
speech. 

A few days after the lecture I made bold to ask for 
a copy of the lady's photograph, and, through some friends 
of hers, was fortunate enough to obtain the one reproduced 
on the opposite page (Fig. 16), which I was assured was 

243 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

taken expressly for me, and the negative destroyed to 
prevent any unauthorised copies being printed. 



2. Shri Maji, the Recluse op Annandgupha, 

NEAR Benares. 

Though common amongst the Jains, female ascetics 
are rare amongst Hindus. There was one, however, who 
resided near Benares for many years, honoured and re- 
spected by the Hindu community. I regret that I did 
not see her myself, but the following particulars regarding 
her were communicated to me : — 

Shri Maji, the Benares Yogini, was born in 1826 a.d. 
Her name was Hari Kuer Bai, but the love she inspired 
earned for her the affectionate title Maji, by which she 
was known to a large public. Her family came originally 
from Gujrat, but as her ancestors had been residents of 
Benares for some generations, and she herself had been 
brought up there, her admirers, connecting her with their 
sacred city, gave her the cognomen Benarsi. Maji, who 
was the youngest of six children, was but five years old 
when her mother died. Her father, Shri Eameshwar 
Dev, was a good Sanskrit scholar and a man of strong 
religious feelings. The youngest child, inheriting his de- 
votional temperament and love of learning, became his 
favourite. To her he devoted much of his time, teaching 
her Sanskrit and instructing her in religious duties. She 
proved an apt pupil, who by her progress amply repaid 
the fond instructor for his labours as teacher and spiritual 
guide. 

When ten years of age, Maji was married at Benares 
to a Brahman youth. Three years after her marriage she 
went to the house of her father-in-law ; in other words, she 
joined her young husband. Hardly two years after that 
she became a widow, and returned to her father's house, 
being then only fifteen years old, fully resolved to devote 
her life to the study of religious books and the practice 
of yoga. Within a short time Maji acquired a fair reputa- 
tion amongst the learned pandits of Benares. Her father 
made many pilgrimages on foot, and she accompanied him, 

244 




J. 

M 
I 
fi 


K 
T 

r 



♦ ;# ♦ i^ ^ :» -fr '^ ^ 






><n:- >^- 



- *<c 



* ^ 



THE SADHVI SlUMATI I'ANDITA MAI JIVAN MUKIT. 



Pig. 16. 



To f<-ce page 244. 



SOME SADHVIS OR FEMALE DEVOTEES 

carrying on her head, in Indian fashion, all the simple 
necessaries for their journey. In these pedestrian pilgrim- 
ages, which occupied some five years, the father and 
daughter visited Jugganath, Hardwar, Brindaban, Badrinath, 
Kedarnath, and many other holy places. When they 
returned to Benares in 1846, Rameshwar Dev's guru, 
Swami Sri Sachda Nand, who used to live in an under- 
ground cave or cell known as Annandgupha, situated some 
twelve miles to the east of Benares, breathed his last, and 
the gufha or cave was left unoccupied. So the father of 
Shri Maji took up his abode there, and with him Maji 
also, always studying the sacred books of the Hindus and 
practising yoga. There, in the gupha, they lived together 
for fourteen years, till in 1860 the father died, and Maji 
was left alone. But she did not desert the spot, and 
continued to live her solitary life there till her death in 
November 1898, at the age of seventy-two. 

Thus it appears that for thirty -eight years this 
religieuse had lived quite alone in the underground cell, 
Annandgupha, where indeed she had passed in calm tran- 
quillity and religious study no less than fifty-two years of 
her life. 

To her cave came, year after year, people from all 
quarters to consult the recluse whose fame had spread 
to distant places, and, knowing the respect in which 
Hindus hold such a character as Maji, we may be certain 
that she endured no real personal want or hardship in 
her old age, but passed her decHning years honoured 
by her co-religionists, and in as much comfort as might 
be consistent with her ascetic professions or her self- 
denying simplicity would accept. A portrait of this lady, 
reproduced from a wood engraving,- stands at the com- 
mencement of the chapter. 

3. Premi, a young Sadhvi who embraced Christianity. 

Both the sadhvis referred to in the preceding pages were 
widows when they adopted the ascetic profession. A Hindu 
widow's lot is, in accordance with the customs of the country, 
so supremely pathetic, so full of restrictions and of cruel 

245 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

humiliations, that it is not surprising that such a one 
should gladly embrace the freedom and respect which the 
religious calling would bring with it. But sadhvis are 
not always widows. Miss Fallon, of the Faizabad Zenana 
Mission, has in a little booklet of some forty-seven pages, 
entitled Premi,^ given a simple but most valuable sketch of 
the life of an orphan girl who, although blessed with the 
world's goods and betrothed to a young Brahman, ran away 
from a comfortable home and an indulgent grandmother 
in order to find God, for whom her infant soul thirsted. 

Ten years she spent as the chelin (female disciple) of 
a most worthy guru, who, having instructed her in the 
right way, and made her practise many austerities, duly 
initiated her, in the presence of other sadhus, into the sect 
or order to which he belonged, conferring upon her a new 
name, meaning " under the shadow of the Almighty," by 
which she should be known thenceforward. 

In company with her spiritual guide, and other dis- 
ciples of his, she visited, as a religious pilgrim, many of 
the sacred shrines of India and the Himalayas. Lost 
one day amongst the mountain forests of Nepal, the for- 
lorn child cried out in despair, " God, Thou knowest I 
have given up all for Thee — home and friends and every- 
thing ; and if it be Thy will that this body should be eaten 
by tigers, I do not mind, only let my spirit be -v^dth Thee ; " 
and there, in the gloomy sohtude of those terrible jungles, 
she distinctly heard a voice utter these comforting words : 
" Thou art My servant, and no harm will come to thee," 
which effectually dispelled all her fears. 

This exceedingly self-willed and highly emotional girl 
was at the age of eighteen attracted towards the Zenana 
missionaries, apparently in the first instance by the desire 
for knowledge. This is how Miss Fallon describes her : 
" Among the crowd I soon spied a wild-looking bright- 
eyed girl, her forehead besmeared with sandalwood, very 
little on in the way of clothing, a mala (beads) in her 
hand, her hair in a loose knot on the top of her head, 

^ Prevn, the Story of a Hindu Girl, by Miss Fallon, Zenana missionary 
at Faizabad : with an Introduction by Sir Monier Williams (James Nisbct 
& Co., London). 

246 



SOME SADHVIS OR FEMALE DEVOTEES 

and looking every inch a sadhu (Hindu devotee). One 
of my teachers whispered to me, ' That is the girl who 
came to our school the other day and said she wanted 
to learn to read.' Of course my interest was aroused, 
and at a sign from me the girl jumped up to where we 
were sitting, as nimbly as a deer, and, smiUng all over, 
sat down at my feet." 

This was Bindraban's first contact with the missionaries, 
and, after a bitter and prostrating mental struggle, this 
wild, impulsive, emotional child of nature embraced Chris- 
tianity, and had once more a new name, this time Premi 
(beloved), given to her. 

With what pain and sorrov/ her guru saw the Brahman 
girl, his favoured disciple for so many years, give up the 
religion of her forefathers, we may easily imagine ; yet, 
when she elected to stay with Miss Fallon, the old sadhu's 
message to that lady was full of a dignified resignation, 
convepng as it did the promise of a divine blessing upon 
Miss Fallon for her kindness to the young sadhvi. 

That the guru's teaching had at least made for righteous- 
ness may be illustrated by the following anecdote, which 
relates to the occasion of the first meeting between the 
wa5rward impressionable sadhvi and Miss Fallon : — 

It was growing dark before the girl started for the 
convent where she was staying, and Miss Fallon asked 
her if she was not afraid to go alone, as there were so 
many bad people about who might do her harm. 

" Why should I fear ? " said the girl, drawing herself 
up. " My guru said, ' Child, sin can never touch you unless 
it is in your heart.' " 



247 



CHAPTER XI 

HINDU MONASTERIES 

Monasteries have existed in India since the earliest times, and are at present 
to be found scattered all over the Country — Religious and Worldly 
Motives which prompt the Foundation of Monasteries — Management 
of Monastic Properties — Monks not expected to labour in any way — 
Installation of an Abbot described — A Visit to the Udasi Akhara of 
Santokh Das ; the Presence of Women tolerated there — The Treasures 
of the place and their History — A public Entertainment at the same 
Monastery — Respect entertained by the Sect for Ashes — Interview 
with another Abbot who had not a single good word for Sadhus — Visit 
to a Dharmsala of the Nirmali Sect ; Sanskrit Literature read and 
expounded there — The great Monastery at Jogi Tilla ; Interview with 
the Abbot ; meet some Acquaintances — A romantic Story associated 
with Tilla — Particulars about certain places of Pilgrimage communi- 
cated by a talkative itinerant Yogi — Sadhus' Partiality for Nudity. 




HERE existed in 
the Indian forests 
in the earliest 
ages communities of 
hermits, of the type 
described in Sakuntala, 
all the residents of the 
penance - grove being 
under one head or 
abbot ; and since Buddhist times there have been through- 
out the country regularly constituted conventual establish- 
ments. Most of these are insignificant and likely to escape 
the notice of Europeans, but every sacred spot or plain or 
mountain and every crowded city knows them. 

Sectarianism, always active in India, has, as we have 
seen, been particularly so for at least a thousand years 

248 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

past. Each new sect, as a matter of course, has set up 
its temples, and, in connection with all the more consider- 
able ones, monasteries also, for the accommodation of the 
priests and attendants, and of the wandering ascetics who 
carry abroad the tenets of the sect and bring recruits into 
the sectarian fold. 

The monasteries estabhshed by the founder of each 
sect are held in great veneration by all his followers, and 
it is an object of ambition to the wandering sadhus to visit 
them periodically, especially on high ceremonial occasions.^ 

Pious Hindus have been exceedingly liberal in their 
bequests for religious and charitable purposes, sometimes 
devoting considerable property towards the establishment 
and maintenance of temples with their connected monas- 
teries and rest-houses. 

*' The religious merit acquired hy the construction of a 
ternfle and its dedication to the worship of particular 
divinities is extolled in numerous sacred texts. 

" Vishnu Rahasya : ' Those who in the sports of child- 
hood create out of dust a temple for Vasudeva, even they 
sojourn in the regions sacred to that divinity.' 

" Agni Purana : ' Of those persons who are ever con- 
templating the construction of a temple for Hari, the sins 
of a previous hundred births are destroyed.' 

" Narasinha Purana : ' Whoever conceives the idea of 
erecting a divine temple, that very day his carnal sins are 
annihilated ; what then shall be said of finishing the 
structure according to rule ! Beyond description is the 
wealth of religious merit acquired by the person who 
makes an abode for Vishnu of eight bricks. The merits 

^ " The mafhs, asthals, or akharas, the residences of the monastic com- 
munities of Hindus, are scattered over the whole country. They vary in 
structure and extent, according to the property of which the proprietors 
are possessed, but they generally comprehend a set of huts or chambers 
for the Mahant or Superior and his permanent pupils ; a temple sacred 
to the deity whom they worship, or the samadh, or shrine of the founder 
of the sect, or some eminent teacher ; and a dharmsala, one or more sheds 
or buildings for the accommodation of the mendicants or travellers who are 
constantly visiting the mafh. Ingress and egress is free to all ; and indeed 
a restraint upon personal liberty seems never to have entered into the 
conception of any of the religious legislators of the Hindus." — Professor 
H. H. Wilson's Sketch of the Eeligious Sects of the Hindus, p. 33. 

249 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

accruing from extensive buildings can be presumed in 
proportion. He who dies after making the first brick (for 
the construction of a temple) obtains the religious merit of 
a completed Yajna.^ 

" Vishnu Purana : ' A man attains the regions presided 
over by that deity whose temple he erects.' 

" Vamana Purana : * The estabhsher of a temple for 
Vishnu procures the salvation of himself and of eight 
generations above his grandfather ! ' 

" Agni Purana : ' The man who causes a temple to 
be built to Hari, carries to the mansion of Vishnu ten 
thousand past and future generations.' 

" Skanda Purana : ' On beginning the construction of a 
temple for Krishna, the sins committed in seven births are 
annihilated, and the ancestors rescued from hell.' " ^ 

Very important, then, are the benefits to be acquired in 
other existences by the building of temples to the gods. 
But even worldly motives may operate in encouraging 
temple -founding, since in populous localities it is a really 
profitable business. 

When a Hindu has surplus money he has rarely any 
desire to purchase the shares of joint-stock companies, or 
even to invest his funds in Government securities. If he 
is a man of the old school, and past the meridian of life, 
he probably talks the matter over with his guru, finds a 
suitable spot, and erects a temple, small or large, according 
to his means. By this act he reaps a double reward : he 
wins the favour of Heaven, and he also nets a not incon- 
siderable pecuniary gain for himself in the present time, 
and for his family in the future. The daily offerings 
of worshippers, together with the alms (mostly food) col- 
lected in daily begging expeditions amongst householders, 
soon provide sufficient means not only for the support 
of the resident priests, scholars, and attendants, but 
also for a fair dividend on his outlay to the owner of 
the shrine. 

As time runs on, suppliants grateful to the local deity 
for favourable answers to their petitions make thank- 

* The Hindu Law of Endoivments, by Pandit Prannath Saraswati, M.A., 
B.L., pp. 43-45. 

250 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

offerings to the temple, or endow it with funds and lands 
for general purposes, or perhaps for the feeding of a fixed 
number of poor sadhus or other mendicants. The offerings 
of timorous souls to avert calamity also add to the temple 
chest. Under favourable conditions or happy accidents, 
the revenues of the estabhshment assume by slow degrees 
respectable proportions, and its regular charities provide 
food, and commonly shelter of some sort, for a number of 
both voluntary and involuntary mendicants.^ Thus under 
the stimulus of religious zeal, cupidity, charity, super- 
stition, and a love of indolence, spring up temples and 
monasteries, their multiplication tending powerfully to 
increase the army of wandering mendicants, since they 
afford these rehgious wayfarers harbours of refuge, which 
they certainly appreciate, and which they make use of to 
the fullest extent. 

The object and method of temple - founding being, as 
we have seen, not altogether unconnected with prospective 
dividends, it follows that the hereditary principle naturally 
plays an important part in the arrangements for the 
management of such property and the revenues derivable 
therefrom. 

The equitable partition of the revenues becomes a 
fertile source of contention amongst the proprietors. Dis- 
honesty and peculation are not unknown, and I have had 
described to me some of the ingenious methods by which 
on great festivals the Hberal offerings deposited before the 
idols by the visitors to a temple or shrine are cleverly 
purloined by the attendants employing literally both hands 
and unshod feet for this dishonest purpose. 

Some of the Hindu monastic institutions have, through 

^ In some of the large maVhs a contribution of not less than one hundred 
rupees secures one full meal a day for life. Of course more than the amount 
just named is usually expected, and paid, for the privilege in question. 
But, think of it ! One hundred rupees paid down, and a plentiful dinner 
secured for life. 

Amongst the Templars, the Affiliati, " in return for a certain sum paid 
down, received their daily maintenance (their commons) out of the corporate 
fund." — King's Gnostics and their Remains, p. 412. And a somewhat 
similar custom obtains even now amongst certain lay orders in certain 
Roman Catholic countries, more particularly as a provision for sickness and 



old age. 



251 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

the liberality of princes and rich benefactors, grown so 
wealthy that their proper management has become im- 
portant enough to claim the attention of the British 
authorities, who, in the interests of the public, have some- 
times been obliged to interfere, with a view to the revenues 
being properly applied in accordance with the wishes of 
the donors or the requirements of the case. Yet the 
Hindu monasteries are on the whole respectable institutions, 
though, as Professor H. H. Wilson said, " there are, it is 
true, exceptions to this innocuous character, and robberies 
and murders have been traced to these religious establish- 
ments." ^ 

Discipline, restraint upon freedom, and serious occupa- 
tion of any sort, are practically unknown in the conventual 
establishments of the Hindus, because the existence of 
rival sects, the absence of a central authority, the practice 
of daily alms -seeking, and the wandering habits of the 
monks, sanctioned by immemorial custom, have made active 
interference with the ascetics not only impolitic but very 
nearly impossible. 

Where there is practically neither restraint nor dis- 
cipline, systematic labour towards any end is out of the 
question, and, as a matter of fact, no Hindu ascetic is ever 
expected to worh. He is to live by alms, and he does so.^ 
It follows that the sadlms do not till the lands that may 
have become the property of a monastery, such lands being 
always leased out to lay agriculturists — a fact which cannot 
fail to recall to one's mind, by the mere force of contrast, 
the laborious diligence of the monks of the West, who, at 
any rate in the early days of Christian monkery, often, by 
their untiring exertions, reclaimed the wilderness and con- 
verted it into smiling corn-fields. At the same time, it 
should not be overlooked that the time-honoured encourage- 
ment of laborious habits on the part of the Western monks 
has, when stimulated by the powerful commercial spirit of 

^ Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, p. 35. 

2 In the Christian monasteries of the West, where the rule of St. Benedict 
prevailed, all the monks were required to be engaged in manual labour for 
seven hours a day, as a duty to God and man ; though it must be admitted 
that, when these conventual establishments waxed rich, the obligation to 
%c9rk with the hands was materially modified, and often set aside altogether. 

252 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

modern times, been productive of those grotesque parodies of 
unworldKness, the present industrial and meanly avaricious 
monastic institutions in France and elsewhere, with their 
dishonesty and their sweating of the weak — features which, 
it would seem, are unfortunately inseparable from indus- 
trialism even in a convent.^ 

In respect to the devolution of religious trusts in India, 
Mr. John D. Mayne states : " When nothing is said in the 
grant as to the succession, the right of management passes 
by inheritance to the natural heirs of the donee, according 
to the rule that a grant without words of limitation con- 
veys an estate of inheritance. The property passes into 
the office, and neither it nor the management is divisible 
among the members of the family. Where no other 
arrangement or usage exists, the management may be held 
in turns by the several heirs. Sometimes the constitution 
of the body vests the management in several, as represent- 
ing several interests, or as a check upon each other, and 
any act which alters such a constitution would be invalid. 
Where the head of a religious institution is bound to 
cehbacy, it is frequently the usage that he nominates his 
successor by appointment during his own lifetime or by 
will. Sometimes his nomination requires confirmation by 
the members of the religious body. Sometimes the right 
of election is vested in them." ^ 

The election and installation of a new Mahant in the 
case of the larger monasteries is a function of great moment, 
carried out with much ceremony, extending over several 
days, and attended by hundreds and even thousands of 
interested persons, particularly wandering ascetics of the 
order attracted to the place by the importance of the 
occasion. 

Installation of a Mahant. — Through the kindness of 
some Indian friends, I received a courteous invitation to 
witness the installation of Pandit S. N. as Mahant of a 

^ I allude, of course, to the grave scandals recently brought to light, 
more particularly in connection with the Bon Pasteur order. 

2 A Treatise on Hindu Law and Usage, by John D. Mayne, chap. xii. 
para. 364. 

253 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

small temple of Siva, and I learned that some three 
hundred Yogis who had recently celebrated the Devali 
festival at Amritsar had come to Lahore in order to take 
part in this function. 

A goodly number of these ascetics had assembled under 
a great banian tree, and a stranger sight could hardly have 
been seen anywhere in the world than that group of wild- 
looldng men. Some had but little clothing on ; some 
covered themselves with dark -coloured blankets; a few 
wore their coverings as grave-clothes (kafan) ; many had 
their hair bedaubed with a light yellow-coloured mud ; all 
were powdered over with fine ashes. 

For all its strangeness and wildness, the assemblage 
was not by any means ugly or repellent. Although their 
bodies had been smeared with ashes, the Yogis did not 
look dirty or squalid. Many, certainly, were finely 
featured men ; most of them were in excellent condition, 
and there was a certain air of lofty indifference about them 
that was quite noticeable, and easily ,. raised them above 
the region of contempt. Evidently, if they practised any 
asceticism whatever, it was of a kind not inimical to 
health. 

At the appointed hour they rose up, and in a dis- 
orderly procession followed a brass band which had been 
sent to escort them, with sundry silver sticks and waving 
chowries, to the temple where the installation was to take 
place. The brass band commenced with a Christy minstrel 
melody, and, after this exhibition of its superior capabilities 
and European training, lapsed into strains of indigenous 
music. 

■ As the procession passed along the streets, the doors 
and windows of the houses on either side became alive 
with men, women, and children, who wished to see the 
tamasha (show, spectacle). They were accustomed to 
processions of all kinds, and looked on with their usual 
apathy at the crowd of Yogis, now swelled into a goodly 
multitude by the addition of a number of ordinary citizens 
induced by curiosity to accompany the sadhus on their 
way. I had on the dickey-box of my carriage a Yogi too 
sick to walk, and, when he was noticed, eager faces peered 

254 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

into the carriage to find out who the occupants might be, 
and, on seeing sahibs^ could not restrain at least a facial 
expression of astonishment. 

As the mixed procession of Yogis and citizens, with 
the noisy brass band, made rather a long, circuitous course 
through the streets and lanes, I took a shorter way in my 
carriage, and reached the temple and adjoining buildings 
in advance of the heterogeneous crowd. 

At the door of the house Pandit S. N. himself received 
us with Oriental courtesy, and had us conducted to seats 
upon the flat roof of one of the buildings, in a position 
from which the ceremony could be very conveniently 
viewed. 

When the Yogis arrived they crowded into the place 
pell-mell ; they filled the small space before the door of 
the temple, and took up whatever positions they thought 
most suitable. When the available area was occupied, 
a number of them came swarming up to the roof where 
I was sitting and made themselves comfortable there. 

The Mahants of several Siva temples were present, all 
well robed in white garments. Pandit S. N. was also 
suitably attired, and was decorated with garlands of flowers. 
Many well-to-do laymen also attended, and a small party 
of women and children had a place to themselves. The 
ceremony of installation was conducted with the greatest 
decorum. First a large brass alms -bowl encased in soft 
white musHn was presented to the pandit by the Mahant 
of a temple at Amritsar, who seemed to take the leading 
part in the ceremonies ; this alms -bowl, which had 
belonged to the late Mahant, and his predecessors, being 
apparently the most important badge of the office of a 
Mahant, symbolising poverty and humility. 

The bowl was received standing, and, when it had been 
placed in the pandit's hands, he was made to sit on a 
cushion in the window with his back to the street, and 
various coloured or parti-coloured clothes were presented 
to him. A large flat brass dish containing sweetmeats 
was then brought forward. The new Mahant, standing up, 
held it in his hands for a few seconds, but not without 
assistance, for it was too large and heavy for one pair of 

255 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

hands. ''^ It was then passed on for future distribution of 
its contents. The several Mahants and other ecclesiastical 
dignitaries present made their obeisances to him, the 
temple bells rang out, the trumpets blared, and a shout 
was raised in honour of Pandit S. N. Presents in money- 
were now made to the new Mahant, and, each time the 
rupees were received and counted by the parohita, or 
family priest, he proclaimed in a loud voice, " So many 
rupees have been donated by so-and-so ! " 

When the presents made by all the dignitaries had 
been received and recorded, the followers of Pandit S. N. — 
that is, those who regarded him as tlieir especial guru — came 
forward one by one, and offered a rupee with profound 
obeisance, sometimes a complete prostration. In return, 
each one received in his right hand from the new Mahant 
a pinch of something which looked very much like ashes 
of some kind. The recipients retired very ceremoniously, 
but almost immediately each one put a little of the white 
stuff on his tongue. 

A pretty boy, nicely dressed, was led up to the pandit, 
and received a teeka on his forehead. From an adjoining 
roof several women and girls in holiday attire bowed low 
to the new Mahant, while many of the Yogis about me 
sidled off to have a pull at the churrus pipe, without which 
these habitual smokers could not get along even for a short 
while. 

Having received gifts from the heads of other temples, 
it was now the new Mahanfs turn to repay the compli- 
ment with interest. He had also to honour the Yogis, to 
each of whom was given two pounds of the confection 
known as ludoos and one rupee in silver. They had all 
been feasted at his expense the day before. 

I was assured that, as a result of this interchange of 
compliments, the new Mahant would, in the end, have spent 
three or four hundred rupees out of his own pocket. 

The akhara of Santokh Das is the largest monastery 
in Amritsar, and belongs to the Udasi sect. Its founder 
was a sadhn who, in the troubled times attending the 
decHne and fall of the Mogul Empire, established himself 

256 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

under a jhopree, or shed, within a small enclosure, where 
he harboured Hindu children whose parents had been 
murdered by the Muslims, or had fled before them. By- 
degrees he rallied many followers round him, and eventu- 
ally, when the Sikhs succeeded in emerging triumphantly 
out of the turmoil and disorder of the times, he obtained 
a jaghir, or free grant of land, which enabled him to 
found the monastery which preserves his name. This is 
a typical example of the circumstances under which 
monasteries may come into existence and attain affluence. 

When I visited the monastery the resident monks 
were few in number, and differed greatly amongst them- 
selves in outward appearance. The majority were wearing 
their hair wound about the head in a coil like a turban — 
these were the jhuttadarees ; others carried loose hanging 
locks (hhoureeahs) ; a few had shaven heads, and were the 
Paramahansas of the order. In regard to the jhuttadarees, 
the Mahant informed me that their hair was never cut, 
and that all the combings were added to the living hair in 
a sort of rope or plait, which was coiled neatly round the 
head. He naively assured me that, when the hair growing 
on the head becam.e white with age, the portion of dead 
hair added to the plait also became white. 

Most of the monks wore orange -coloured clothes ; one, 
however, had a green coat on, which had been given to 
him by some charitable person. Only two or three wore 
malas of any sort. 

The Mahant was not dressed like the sadhus, but wore 
a bright pink-coloured turban, a white long-sleeved Jcurta 
or tunic, and a purple loongee round his loins. His feet 
rested on wooden kharanws or pattens. In his hand he 
carried a short rosary of large beads. 

As far as I could see, there was free intercourse 
amongst the resident monks, and their bearing towards the 
Mahant, though respectful, was not servile. Yet, two or 
three men prostrated themselves on the ground, and put 
their heads with great humility on the abbot's feet ; but 
he took no notice whatever of them. 

The building, constructed of brick and mortar, is of con- 
siderable size, double-storeyed in some parts. It has two 
R 257 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

hypoetkral courts of unequal size, and a goodly number of 
small rooms for the accommodation of monks. Though 
substantially built, the place has no architectural preten- 
sions. Its situation is convenient, being just near the 
Golden Temple, which, with the great tank surrounding it, 
is visible from the upper storey of the monastery. 

In one of the open courts was a cluster of four sa- 
madhs, erected in memory of four Mahants who had been 
the predecessors of the present abbot. These had all 
been cremated in the court itself on a spot which was 
pointed out to me. 

The four samadhs occupied a pretty considerable 
proportion of the court, indicating a want of consideration 
for the claims of posterity.^ 

Near the entrance doorway, but within the precincts, 
there was a place where cattle might drink water, also 
bathing-places for outsiders — one for men, and another for 
women. 

This toleration of women is in striking contrast with 
the practice of some Christian monasteries under the 
control of the Eastern Church. Writing about these, 
Mr. Curzon, in his interesting book, Monasteries of the 
Levant, states that he was informed " that no female 
animal of any sort or kind is admitted on any part of the 
peninsula of Mount Athos ; and that since the days of 
Constantine the soil of the Holy Mountain had never been 
contaminated by the tread of a woman's foot." ^ The 
same author also mentions having met a monk thirty or 
thirty-five years of age, who, having been brought to one of 
the Athos monasteries as an infant, had no recollection of 
ever having seen a woman, and was anxious to know if 
they resembled the stiff expressionless mediaeval pictures 
of the Virgin which adorned the walls of the cenobitic 
institutions of the little peninsula which formed his very 
restricted world.^ 

What positive terror the insidious charms of women 

^ Where, as at Buddh Gya, the deceased abbots have all been buried, 
the spot occupied by their graves makes quite a small cemetery. 

2 Monasteries of the Levant, by the Hon. Robert Curzon, Jun., p. 306. 
^md. p. 347. 

258 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

inspired in tlie minds of certain Christian anchorites, who, 
with Chrysostom, looked upon the sex as " a necessary evil, 
a deadly fascination, and a painted ill," is well known ; but 
the circumstances which have operated in India to make 
women there less objectionable in the eyes of the professed 
ascetic are not far to seek. 

In the first place, in the land of Krishna and of Sakhti 
worshippers, the virtue of virginity or even of continence 
has never been regarded with the respectful awe with 
which it was viewed by rehgious men in the West, and for 
this, in all probability, the influence of climate is largely 
accountable ; ^ and then, in the next place, as the monks 
are nearly all wanderers, subject to little if any disciphne, 
and practically dependent upon the charity of women, it is 
naturally undesirable and futile to impose rules prohibiting 
women from entering monasteries as visitors, particularly 
as some of these conventual institutions serve very con- 
veniently as caravansaries where travellers may obtain 
lodgings for payment. 

Having inspected the more public portions of the 
monastery, I was conducted to the Mahanfs sitting-room, 
which I found adorned with fresco paintings representing 
his predecessors and their doings. While seated here, the 
courteous abbot explained that for the maintenance of the 
monastery the chief source is a jaghir or grant, made in 
the first instance by the Sikh government of Maharajah 
Ranjit Singh, and confirmed at a later date by the British 
Government, though somewhat modified and curtailed. 
My host now had the treasures of his reliquary brought 
out and arranged for me to see. There were, amongst 
other things, a portrait of Santokh Das, a book, a picture 
showing the original plan of the Golden Temple, and four 
fine hyraguns, or rests — two of wood very nicely carved, 
one made of ivory finely cut, and the fourth of brass. My 
particular attention was also invited to a leaf of the peepul 
tree, which, by a very great stretch of imagination, might 
be taken to resemble a hand having an exaggerated palm 
and dwarf fingers. It was the leaf of a tree which had 
been touched with his holy hand by one of the SiJch gurus, 
1 Montesquieu, De V Esprit des Lois, livre xvi. chap. viii. 

259 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

and consequently bore leaves resembling in shape a human 
hand. It was preserved in a picture -frame under a glass 
pane, and had been presented long ago to the akhara by a 
monk of the order of the Udasis. Another much esteemed 
curiosity was a little book written on a number of pieces of 
paper joined together like the bellows of an accordion. 

A pair of kharanws in the collection had a story 
attached to them. They were made of brass instead of 
wood by some infdel or other who wished to put Santokh 
Das to the test. " Look here," said he to the saint. " You 
are a great sadhu ; take these from me as a token of my 
profound respect." He had, however, just before presenting 
them, maliciously heated them to a high temperature, with 
the view of amusing himself with the enhvening efiect they 
would have upon the sedate ascetic as soon as he put his 
feet upon them. But Santokh Das stepped on to the hot 
brass kharanws without betraying any sign of inconvenience, 
miraculously enduring the heat, or perhaps unconscious of it. 

Before I left the monastery the abbot invited me to 
renew my visit at the time of the Devah festival. He 
explained that the permanent residents in the monastery 
were few, that at all times there were some wandering 
sadhus receiving the hospitahty of the institution, but 
that on certain festivals, notably the Devah, the number 
to be entertained taxed the resources of the house to the 
utmost. 

Upon this invitation I came again to the akhara in 
November 1898, and found the place full of sadhus and 
many other visitors, including not a few women. There 
were sadhus moving about the courts and inside the 
building in a more or less aimless manner ; some, 
particularly the nangahs, who do not or ought not to live 
under a roof, were clustered round small fires in the 
quadrangles, attending idly to their toilets. 

Presently a cry was raised, " Un ke pujah karo, Nanak 
nirbani " (Perform the worship of food, (in the name of) 
Nanak, who has left the world). 

Most of those present began to arrange themselves in 
the smaller courtyard in long lines, seated on the floor ; 
others took up places on the flat roof of a one-storeyed 

260 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

building assigned for the purpose. Women were present 
in both places. I was accommodated with a chair on the 
roof of a range of rooms, from which I could see the people 
in the court as well as those on the roof opposite. 

All assembled in the most sober and decorous fashion, 
and arranged themselves in regular hnes. I noticed 
a small hoy-sadhu of about eight years of age trying 
to find a place for himself. He was, it seems, devoted 
to the ascetic hfe by his own parents. It is a common 
thing for childless people to vow that, if a son is born 
to them, he shall be devoted to a rehgious hfe. And 
this is one way in which the mendicant sects are swelled 
and 'perennially recruited. 

When the guests were all quietly seated — and there 
was no unseemly hurry about this — the cooks went round 
supplying each person with a sort of cup or small basin 
neatly made of dry leaves. Those who had brought their 
own brass cups, or katorahs, did not of course need the 
more primitive leaf -vessels. After this the cooks made 
the round, with large baskets, distributing big flat cakes 
of hot unleavened bread which had been freshly baked on 
heated iron pans. I noticed that the bread was given 
liberally, and that some of the guests evidently took an 
additional share for an absent friend. Then the ddl 
(lentils) was brought round in a large brass vessel with 
two handles, carried by a couple of men. A third, armed 
with an iron ladle, helped the savoury yellow food into 
the leaf or brass cups, as the case might be. Yet no one 
touched a morsel. I now counted, as well as I could, the 
assembled guests, and found that they numbered about 
two hundred persons. When the - requirements of all 
present had been met, the order was given, " Gajo-ji waha 
Guru," which may be freely rendered, "Assert yourselves 
in the name of God." Whereupon those who wished to 
carry away the food which had been given them, rose and 
withdrew ; the rest fell to, and ate their morning meal. 

Before leaving the monastery I inquired about the 
custom of worshipping ashes, which I understood the 
Udasis followed. The Mahant smilingly conducted me to 
the threshold of the room where the Granth Sahib — the 

261 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

sacred book of the Sikhs — was kept, and wliicli miglit be 
called the chapel. At the abbot's request one of the 
attendants produced a great ball, or rather a cylinder with 
rounded edges, made of the very finest ashes. It was 
coloured on the outside of a reddish tint, and looked not 
unlike a Dutch cheese. At one end was a small 
depression. Into this the attendant who carried it in- 
serted his thumb and brought out upon its surface a 
fine white powder, which he applied to his forehead. 
Several others present followed his example. The 
Mahant explained that these sacred balls of ashes 
were made with much care ; that the ashes were well 
washed, and only the finest particles which eventually 
subsided in the water were taken and then mixed with a 
white clay from the hills, without which the ashes would 
not have sufficient coherence. 

At the termination of my very pleasant visit I was 
conducted by the Mahant to my carriage, and at the 
moment of parting he presented me with some sugar 
candy, which he politely insisted upon my receiving from 
his monastery. 

One morning I presented myself at a monastery in 
the Punjab, which I need not name. Though my visit was 
quite unexpected, the portly abbot, who was reading a 
vernacular newspaper when I arrived, was most gracious 
in his welcome, and seemed willing to discourse upon all 
the ordinary topics of the day. 

Being informed by one of my companions that I was 
much interested in sadhus, he forthwith broke out into a 
tirade against the whole crew. " There might," he said, 
" be one in a hundred who had any pretensions to goodness 
or virtue, but the rest were vile scum and unmitigated 
scoundrels." 

What more especially annoyed him was that men who 
one day were ploughing their fields as ordinary peasants 
would the very next day, in the garb of sadhus, claim 
the hospitahty of an akhara, spend the night with loose 
women, and then become transformed again into cultivators 
of the soil as soon as it suited their convenience to do so. 

I have no doubt the MahanCs complaint was based on 

262 • 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

actual experience, and that it was not without cause that 
he grudged the pseudo - sadhus their board out of the 
moderate revenues at his disposal ; but, for all that, I felt 
sure that my portly host was well able to take care of him- 
self. He wished that Government would enact that each 
and every sadhu should carry a certificate to show who 
and what he really was — a suggestion which might be 
commended to the consideration of the authorities, as 
its adoption would certainly be convenient at seasons of 
general unrest or political tension. 

I was subsequently informed that this abbot's claim 
to the headship of the monastery was disputed, and that 
the question of his right of possession was engaging the 
attention of one of the law courts. 

Two monasteries of the Nirmali sect, both known as 
Thakur Dyal Singh's dharmsalas, were visited by me on 
the 6th of September 1898. Both were of considerable 
size though unpretentious in design, and could easily afford 
accommodation to a large number of inmates, for whom 
several rows of small rooms were provided. Both monas- 
teries had their own oxen to draw water and to grind the 
corn for the household. They had their own cows also. 
At the time of my visits to these establishments most of 
the rooms were unoccupied, and only a few monks visible. 
These, too, were rather a puzzle to me as regards their 
dress and appearance, for the only external characteristic 
they seemed to have in common was long hair. 

Most of them wore orange-coloured clothes and malas 
of little woollen balls resembling beads, and those who 
were going out carried chippees (alms-bowls made out of 
cocoanut-shells) in their hands. Along with the Granth, 
the Bible of the Sikhs, other books held sacred by the 
Hindus were read in one of these dharmsalas morning and 
evening. Indeed, the Mahabharata was being read and 
expounded while I was in the monastery by a Brahman 
pandit, who was neither a Nirmali nor a sadhu. In the 
other dharmsala an image of Ram Chandra had been set up, 
though I did not see it. This ihakurdwara had been 
founded by a pious woman of means. 

Amongst the sadhus I noticed a good-looking boy of 

263 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and asked him why 
he had become a sadhu and given up the world, of which 
he could hardly have seen anything. He promptly re- 
pHed that one was never too young to enter upon a good 
path. 

Somewhat different from the establishments described 
above is the great math of Jogi Tilla, situated on the top 
of a conspicuous hill in the Jhelum district of the Punjab. 
Proceeding towards this monastery in order to be there on 
the occasion of a certain Hindu festival, I fell in on the 
way with twelve or thirteen Yogis, all young men in the 
prime of life, bound for the same place. All of them had 
their hair hanging about their necks, but not particularly 
long, and bleached a yellow-brown colour. They had the 
least quantity of clothing on, and had their bodies 
smeared with ashes. All wore the characteristic yogi 
whistle depending from the neck. Some carried huge 
tongs, others small hoes. Two or three alms-bowls and 
some brass imitations of the gourd were also to be seen. 
One man was armed with a formidable serpent-shaped 
wind instrument. None of the party seemed disposed to 
be communicative or even to answer my questions. As I 
walked along very leisurely, the Yogis passed me by on the 
road ; but, when I subsequently overtook them on horse- 
back, they were sitting beside a pool smoking charras. 

Farther on I met a Yogi trudging along alone, and 
soon discovered that he was not as reticent as the men I 
had left behind in clouds of charras-smoke near the pool. 

My new acquaintance came from the military station of 
Jhelum, and so probably knew something about Europeans. 
I learned from him that he had served an apprenticeship 
to a famous guru for four years before he was per- 
mitted to have his ears pierced to receive the huge rings 
which the KanpJiatti Yogis wear and to have whispered 
to him the sacred and secret mantra of the order. 

As we approached the mountain — for such it really was 
— we passed many groups of pedestrians on pleasure bent. 
One party consisted of three boys, the eldest not sixteen 
years old, who had come from the town of Jhelum, several 
miles distant. They were all neatly and cleanly dressed 

264 



HINDU MONASTERIES 

in light garments ; but, tliougli it was winter, not a scrap 
of any sort of luggage did they have with them, nor even 
any wraps. Several groups of women and girls, some of 
them attended by men, were wending their way upwards 
from neighbouring villages. None carried extras, unless 
babies be reckoned as such. I ascertained that all these 
visitors would be provided with accommodation and cover- 
ings by the Yogis at Tilla, and that the Hindus who visited 
the fair would be fed free of expense by the abbot of the 
Jogi Tilla monastery. 

I rested for the night in the Government rest-house at 
the foot of the mountain, and the next morning found that 
an excellent, if narrow, road led to the summit, whence 
from different positions extensive prospects might be en- 
joyed of a country rich in poetical and historical associa- 
tions, amongst the latter being the invasion of India by 
Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. 

The monastery on Jogi Tilla, of which I give a photo- 
graph, is a substantial group of buildings, and its Mahani, 
a handsome, well-dressed, dignified old gentleman, who 
gave one the impression of being a man of authority, 
received me with much politeness. After the usual ex- 
change of civilities, I was shown all over the place, which 
was full of visitors who had come up from the villages in 
the plains in order to be present at the festival. I was 
struck by some dark subterranean chambers which were 
shown me, and which I understood had been tenanted by 
Yoai anchorites, whose austerities were still remembered 
with awe and wonder. While walking about, I came across a 
score of Yogis sitting round a great log fire, and to my pleasure 
was recognised by several of them, haying met them the pre- 
vious year at the installation of Mahant S. N. in Lahore. 

I obtained comfortable quarters in the rest-house 
erected especially for the accommodation of the Govern- 
ment Civil officers of the district, for whom this elevated 
spot serves as a pleasant sanatorium during the hottest 
time of the year. I had hardly got my things in when 
the Mahant sent over to inquire what my orders were in 
respect to requisites for my table, as he would have much 
pleasure in supplying all the wants of myself and servants 

265 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

while I sojourned on the mountain, or at any rate as long 
as the festival lasted. I did not avail myself of this kind 
offer, having already made my arrangements, but I saw 
that the crowd, mostly of village folks, who had come up 
the hill, enjoyed themselves right pleasantly at the fair, 
and were well cared for by the hospitable abbot. " The 
shrine of Tilla," says Mr. E. D. Maclagan, " is certainly 
very ancient, and is possibly a relic of a previous cult ; it 
is mentioned in the Ain-i-Akbari. There were formerly 
large grants of revenue attached to the monastery, but 
these were aboHshed some years ago, when the Mahant 
was accused of murdering his rival for the gaddi. The 
Yogis of Tilla are not an estimable body, but are held in 
considerable reputation, even by Mussulmans, and they have 
Hindu disciples away beyond the Afghan border." ^ 

Roaming about the hill-top with a local guide, my 
attention was directed to various geological features of the 
mountain formation, which told of titanic battles between 
rival Yogis and other sadhus in the old time. There was 
also pointed out to me a slab of dark-coloured stone, on 
which some dozen cowrie shells and sundry pieces of crude 
brown sugar had been placed in memory of old events 
which are still fresh in the recollections of the village lads 
and maidens. It was on this stone, they told me, that 
Ranja sat and sounded his whistle, and on this slab he had 
been initiated into the secrets and received into the sect 
of the Yogis. The story, as it was told me on the spot, is 
worth repeating. 

Ranja, hearing the praises of Heer sung by the 
wandering minstrels, became enamoured of her, sought 
her out, and artfully succeeded in obtaining service as 
a cowherd in her father's house. A mutual attachment 
sprang up between the handsome youth and the lovely 
girl ; but the wife of Heer's brother had her suspicions 
aroused by the behaviour of the lovers, and secured the 
cowherd's dismissal. To prevent scandals and trouble, 
Heer was married to another man, and Ranja, disappointed 
and dismissed, went off to become a Yogi, teUing Heer he 
would meet her yet. To Jogi Tilla he wended his way, 

^ Punjab Census Report, 1891, p. 117. 
266 










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HINDU MONASTERIES 

and, seating himself upon the stone already referred to, 
blew a whistle he had brought with him. 

The Mahant, who was no other than the great Gorakh- 
n^th himself, came out and said, in a loud voice, " Who is 
it that blows a whistle outside there ? If he is a Jogi he 
is free to come in ; if not, how dare he sound a whistle so 
near my premises ? " To this Ranja made suitable answer, 
that although not yet a Jogi, he earnestly desired to become 
one. His fine manners and handsome person at once won 
for him the favour of the great guru, who admitted him, 
there and then, into his sect, piercing Ranja's ears in the 
most approved manner. The new Jogi asked as a favour 
that he might be reunited to Heer, and the gracious guru 
said that his wish would be gratified. Elated with the 
blessing of his superior, Ranja hastened away to where his 
beloved Hved, and lit his fire within view of Heer's home, 
but on the opposite bank of the river. The fame of his 
exceeding beauty soon spread abroad, and the women were 
dying to visit him. Heer suspected it might be her lover, 
and winning over her husband's sister, on some pretext or 
other, to visit the famous Jogi privately, she ascertained 
for herself that her surmise was quite correct, and she also 
contrived to arrange that Ranja should come across the 
river in the darkness to meet her. Night after night he 
found his way to her arms, and never came without a small 
ofiering in the shape of some fish caught by himself and 
daintily cooked with his own hands. Once the river rose in 
a great flood, and in the turbid rushing stream no fish could 
be caught. To go empty-handed to his assignation seemed 
too dreadful, so the devoted lover cut off a piece of his own 
flesh and dressed it for his mistress. *' What is this ? " 
she inquired as she put a piece into her mouth. " This is 
not fish, nor rabbit, nor mutton that you have brought me. 
I cannot eat this — what is it ? " He displayed the wound 
in his thigh. " Ah ! " exclaimed the girl tenderly, quite 
overcome with emotion. " You have fully played your part, 
my love ; it is for me now to do and dare. I shall come 
to you in future. The river shall not part us. I'll swim 
across it on a stout ghurrah ^ every night." And she did 

^ A large water -pot of baked cla3^ 
267 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

so regularly, guided in her dangerous course by the love- 
light of the Jog€s fire. But her doings were found out by 
a jealous female relative, who one night spitefully replaced 
Heer's trusty ghurrah by a similar but unbaked vessel. 
All unconscious of the substitution, Heer, in the darkness 
of the night, entered the river, and, with the treacherous 
aid of the fragile ghurrah, swam out into the stream. But, 
before she had gone half-way across, the pot softened in 
the water and gave way. She cried aloud to her lover for 
help as she felt herself drowning. Ran] a at once plunged 
into the stream to her assistance, but the lovers were 
carried away in the darkness and never seen again. 

The above story has been reproduced as it was told to 
me, but it seems to be a medley of two romances well 
known in the Punjab, " Hir and Ranja," and " Sohni and 
Mahirwal." 

The name " Hir and Ranja " is strikingly reminiscent 
of Hero and Leander, but, strange to say, it is not in this 
one, but in the Sohni and Mahirwal legend, that the lover 
swims the river as Leander used to brave the dangers of 
the Hellespont for the love of the priestess of Venus. 

On my return from Jogi Tilla it was my good fortune 
to have, for a part of the way, the companionship of a 
young and very talkative Yogi who had travelled a good 
deal. He had been, he said, to Hinglaj on the mountains, 
and in token of~^s visit had been duly branded on the 
right forearm. This, he explained, was done because the 
Devi at Hinglaj used to be worshipped by Muhammadans, 
and they enjoyed her special favour ; so Siva directed that 
Hindus who went there should be branded with his symbol 
as a mark of his divine protection. With regard to 
Amarnath in Kashmir, where he had also been, the young 
Jogi said that till recently it had been the custom for 
persons visiting the sacred ice-cave on the mountain-top to 
divest themselves (both men and women) of every stitch 
of clothing, as it was thus that lord Siva wished them to 
appear and dance before him ; but my informant added 
that 710W, owing to the wishes of the father of the present 
Maharajah of Kashmir, the women were allowed to cover 
themselves, but with a single garment only. The men enter 

268 




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HINDU MONASTERIES 

the ice-cave with langotis or breech-clouts on ; but each man 
divests his neighbour of his langoti, so in the end they 
stand in the cave stark naked. Whether these details 
about the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath are true or not 
I have not been able to ascertain, but they are certainly in 
harmony with what we know of Indian sadhus, amongst 
whom the tendency to run to nudity is a very marked 
characteristic.^ A few years ago an application was made 
to the High Court at Bombay to cancel an order of the 
District Magistrate prohibiting the Gosavis, a religious 
sect of mendicants, from walking in procession naked, and 
then bathing at Nasik as a religious duty during the Sin- 
hasta festival. In support of this appeal, it was urged by 
the petitioners that bathing naked had always been allowed 
at Hardwar and Allahabad.^ 

1 Vigne, who visited Kashmir in 1835, states that the Brahmans at 
Amarnath divest themselves of all clothing excepting some pieces of birch- 
bark which do duty for fig-leaves {Travels in Kashmir, etc., vol. ii. chap, i.) ; 
and Dr. Neve {Picturesque Kashmir, 1900, chap, vii.) says that the wor- 
shippers throw themselves naked upon the block of ice in the cave which 
represents Siva. 

2 Times of India (Bombay), 12th August 1896. 



269 



CHAPTER XII 



National Ideals of Life as indications of National Character — European 
and American Ideals contrasted with that of India — A Life involving 
Renunciation regarded by the Hindus as the only possible Holy Life — 
Sadhuism in its Religious, Social, Political, Intellectual, and Industrial 
Aspects — The probable Future of Sadhuism considered. 




-4 



•c^_ _*■ 



F in the ideal of life which claims 
especial regard or is the object of 
the supreme ambition of any people 
their character is discernible, it may 
be profitable, in connection with the 
subject of this volume, to pause for 
a moment to contrast the highest 
ideals of the busy practical West and of the tranquil 
dreamy East. 

Though Mammon worship prevails largely in England, 
the loftiest aspirations of the vast majority of Englishmen 
still tend towards aristocratic ideals, the objects of highest 
admiration amongst them, after royalty with its old-world 
glamour, being the hereditary nobleman or landed gentle- 
man who takes a leading part in public life, the strenuous 
statesman, and the victorious general. Royalty being 
excluded, the hero-type which in each case attracts the 
homage of the English world is still the aristocrat 

270 



CONCLUSION 

successful as a man of action. In the United States of 
America, wliicli have no royal court and no hereditary 
nobility, which until recently had no foreign relations of 
magnitude, where the feehng is intensely democratic, and 
where the best energies of the people are untiringly de- 
voted to industrial pursuits, the prosperous business man 
sprung from the ranks of the people, the clever accumulator 
of wealth, the plutocrat, the self-assertive millionaire, is 
the beau-ideal of the nation, and next after him the wide- 
awake pushing politician. Here also, it is evident, popular 
admiration is given to what is regarded as the embodiment 
of success in fields of activity congenial with the national 
taste and leanings.^ For the professedly religious life 
there exists both in England and the United States — 
perhaps in all Protestant countries — a separate and 
distinct ideal of perfection, yet certain it is that the 
respect of the pious Protestants of Britain and the States 
is commanded by the vigorous active worker for the 
good of others, and not by the retiring self-contained 
ascetic. 

Verv different indeed from the business-born ideals we 
have been considering is the hero-type which for ages has 
drawn the admiring homage of India and the Far East. 
The covetous Westerns may have their eyes riveted with 
greedy appreciation upon the bejewelled Rajahs of India 
and their barbaric pomp, but, for reasons already indicated, 
it is the ascetic profession that time out of mind has been 
of pre-eminent dignity in the eyes of the Indian people. 
The quiet inactive recluse, the retired ascetic detached 
from the world and its petty rivalries, has since the 
earliest ages occupied the very highest place in the 
national esteem — a fact which speaks volumes for the 
condition and psychology of the Hindus, because, as 
Carlyle has well said, " The manner of men's Hero- 
worship, verily it is the innermost fact of their existence 
and determines all the rest." 

That the only possible state of a religious (holy) Kfe is 

* It is interesting that, in Europe, lunatics suffering from the delusion of 
self-importance commonly imagine themselves to be princes and kings, and 
on the other side of the Atlantic the megalomaniacs are usually millionaires, 

271 



.< 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

one involving asceticism and renunciation of the world, 
has been for ages such a deeply rooted idea in India, that 
Hindu apologists for the more active hfe have felt con- 
strained to devise apologues which might be cited in 
support or justification of men of acknowledged goodness 
who did not withdraw themselves from the temptations 
and toils of mundane existence. For example, Rajah 
Janak, who ruled his kingdom with great ability, had the 
reputation also of being a very religious man ; but the 
ascetics scouted this notion, and it was arranged by some 
sadhus that they should have an interview with the king 
in order to test his pretensions. Ten of them accordingly 
asked for an audience and received permission to approach 
the king, but only on certain prescribed conditions. 
Each man amongst them was to carry a large earthen- 
ware vase full of water on his head, and should suffer 
death if he allowed even a single drop of the contents to 
spill. 

The stipulations were accepted, and Rajah Janak's 
capital made preparations for the reception of the holy 
sadhus. The shops and houses were gaily decorated, the 
multitudes were out in their gala attire, and troops Hned 
the streets along which the visitors were to pass. 

Slowly, and very carefully (for their lives were at stake), 
did the king's guests wend their way to the royal palace, 
where they were graciously received by the Rajah, who 
asked them, in an affable manner, what they thought of 
his capital, through the best streets of which they had 
just passed on their way to the presence-chamber. The 
indignant sadhus, perceiving that they were being laughed 
at, repUed with chagrin that they were unable to express 
any opinion on this point, since through the king's un- 
reasonable tyranny they had not been able to look either 
to the right or to the left, having to think about the 
brimful water-pots on theii aeads. 

The Rajah very politely begged his visitors not to be 
annoyed, as what he had done was only to inculcate an 
important lesson. 

" You most venerable sadhus,^^ said the king, *' have 
passed along the streets without any mishap ; your eyes 

272 



CONCLUSION 

have directed you and your limbs have carried you while 
you wended your way through the streets of this great 
city, but your attention was mostly concentrated upon 
the water-pots on your heads. Just in the same way 
do I pass along the world's great highway, doing what 
is necessary, but with my attention fixed on things 
above." 

After this preamble, we may profitably cast a rapid 
glance at the religious, social, political, intellectual, and 
industrial aspects of sadhuism, and also venture, but not 
too boldly, to forecast its future. 

Sadhuism in its Religious Aspect. 

Sadhuism, whether perpetuating the peculiar idea of 
the efficacy of austerities for the acquisition of far- 
reaching powers over natural phenomena, or bearing its 
testimony to the belief in the indispensableness of detach- 
ment from the world as a preparation for the inefiable 
joy of ecstatic communion with the Divine Being, has 
undoubtedly tended to keep before men's eyes, as the 
highest ideal, a fife of purity, self-restraint, and contempt 
of the world and human affairs. It has also necessarily 
maintained amongst the laity a sense of the righteous 
claims of the poor upon the charity of the more affluent 
members of the community. Moreover, sadhuism, by the 
multiplicity of the independent sects which have arisen in 
India, has engendered and favoured a spirit of tolerance which 
cannot escape the notice of the most superficial observer. 

Sadhuism in its Social Aspect. 

Socially, sadhuism has, in its spirit and practice, always 
tended towards the recognition of the equality of all 
Hindus, and has therefore been inimical to the rigid caste - 
system so dear to the Brahman priesthood. The warfare 
between Brahmanism and Sadhuism has been carried on 
with varying fortune for thirty centuries ; but the demo- 
cratic leanings referred to have proved too strong for the 
opposition of the " twice-born " classes, and the inevitable 
S 273 






THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

result was long since grudgingly admitted, as the following 
prophecy, put into the mouth of the Vedic god India, shows 
clearly enough : — 

When this krita (or golden) age," says the god, 
has come to a close, innumerable mendicants and 
hypocrites shall arise and the four orders become dis- 
organised." ^ 

A noteworthy statement this, the fulfilment of which is 
amply attested by the foregoing chapters. 

That the sadhu as such should enjoy popular considera- 
tion has undoubtedly been at all times a very sore trial for 
the proud Brahman, and especially hateful to him when 
it was a low-caste Sudra who, in virtue of being an 
ascetic, received the respect and homage of the people. 
But, as already remarked, the Brahmanical opposition, 
however strong, has proved unavailing, and the right of 
the Sudra to the privileges of sadhuism and ascetic 
practices, at any rate during the present age, has been 
authoritatively, if reluctantly, admitted in the Rama- 
yana.^ 

^ Mahabharata — Santiparvan, sec. Ixv. Muir's Sanskrit Texts, vol. i, 
p. 485. 

- The curious legend which contains this admission is as follows : — A 
Brahman youth died suddenly without apparent cause. The father of the 
boy, bewailing his loss, came to the king's palace, and in his lamentations 
accused the king, the semi-divine Rama himself, of having, through some 
fault of his, as ruler of the land, brought about the untoward event. The 
imputation reached Rama's ears, and he summoned a council of sages to 
consider the matter. Narada being present, explained that the death of 
the Brahman boy was due to the presumption of a Sudra who was practising 
austerities for the attainment of certain objects. Men of his caste, explained 
the sage, were not entitled to this great privilege in Rama's age (the Treia 
yuga), though he admitted prophetically that in the Kali yiiga Sudras would 
practise austerities freely, and righteously too. Rama, as became the 
guardian of his people, set off immediately in quest of the audacious offender. 
After searching in many regions, he discovered the ascetic near a tank by 
the Saivala mountains, " performing the most austere penances with his 
legs upwards and head downwards." In reply to Rama's inquiries, the 
topsy-turvy ascetic, still standing on his head, said, " O highly illustrious 
Rama, I am born in the race of Sudras, and, with a view to reach the region 
of the celestials with my body, I am going through these austere penances." 
On hearing this, the king drew his sword and forthwith cut off the ascetic's 
head. After this act of justice, the Brahman boy was restored to life. — 
Ramayana — Uttarakandam, sec. Ixxxvi.-lxxxix., Manmatta Nath Dutt's 
translation. 

274 



CONCLUSION 

Sadhuism in its Political Aspect. 

Politically, sadhuism, through the perennial wanderings 
of the ascetics over the length and breadth of the land, 
has tended to preserve a certain homogeneity throughout 
India, and, so far, has been acting counter to that tendency 
to fission and disintegration which is natural in such a 
vast country of many languages and races. At the same 
time, the detachment from human afiairs which sadhuism 
demands must have been at all times adverse to patriotism 
in any form, and there can be no doubt that it is largely 
due to the subtle effects of the spirit of sadhuism upon 
the character of the people of India that that country is so 
easily governed by a handful of foreign ofiicials and a few 
thousand white soldiers. 



The Intellectual Aspect of Sadhuism. 

Intellectually, the spirit of sadhuism has unquestion- 
ably proved most baneful, its tendency being to regard 
passing events — that is, history in the making — with 
undisguised contempt and the study of nature as useless, 
since true knowledge and power over phenomena could 
be acquired only by contemplation and austerities. 

Industrial Effect of Sadhuism. 

Many estimates have been made, and at different times, 
of the proportion which the number of religious mendicants 
in India bears to the entire population. Mr. Ward, 
the Serampore missionary, writing a century ago and with 
special reference to Bengal and Behar, says : "I have 
endeavoured to ascertain the probable number of Hindus 
who embrace a Hfe of mendicity, and am informed that 
scarcely less that an eighth part of the whole population 
abandon their proper employments and hve as reUgious 
mendicants by begging." Mr. Crookes, in his North-Western 
Provinces of India (1898), puts the figure for that terri- 
tory at two millions out of forty millions, or one-twentieth 
of the population. 

275 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

Naturally, everyone who believes that the chief end of 
man is to produce things of various kinds grieves over the 
deplorable waste of productive energy represented by the 
sadhu population of India. But, after all, is it of no 
importance that the country has been able to prodiice for 
a hundred generations whole armies of men able to 
practise, with a religious purpose, that contempt of the 
world and earthly riches which is, at least theoretically, 
one of the most important of Christian virtues ? ^ 

No doubt, the philosophy and art, I might say the 
cult, of chronic idleness is thoroughly understood and 
acted upon in India ; still, in estimating the extent to 
which its sadhu population is a burden upon the country, 
several facts have to be borne in mind which the most 
superficial analysis of the composition of the reUgious 
mendicant class brings to light. In the first place, 
amongst sadhus are included a very considerable percentage 
of what in other countries are merely the destitute paupers 
supported by the State out of the proceeds of taxation, 
but in India out of the alms of the people. Again, sadhus 
are to no small extent religious teachers (gurus) of the 
masses, and this must be recognised in any estimate of 
their value or otherwise to the community. 

In the ranks of the sadhus, too, there is honourable 
room for those men, present in every community, who, 
as Bishop Creighton once said, " although as good as 
gold and fit for heaven, are of no earthly use." Further, 
the incorrigible idlers who in Europe become intolerable 
and dangerous vagrants, pursue a more reputable course in 
India. They simply adopt the religious habit of some sect 
or order, and enter the ranks of the peregrinating sadhus. 

There are other points, also, which in this connection 
deserve attention. For example, sadhus are prominently 
in evidence on account of their peculiar dress and 
appearance, while their wandering habits taking them, 
often in huge parties, from place to place throughout the 
circhng year, seem to multiply them many times over. 
Their necessary daily appeals for a dole of simple food to 

1 John ii. 15, 16; James iv. 13, 14; Rom. xiv. 17; Luke xiv. 26; 
Matt. xiz. 21. 

276 



CONCLUSION 

sustain life also helps to keep them before the public eye, 
and to unpleasantly remind the world of their existence. 
But, whether or not sadhus are too numerous for the 
industrial well-being of the country, it should not be 
forgotten that, though there are undoubtedly many 
worthless sadhus, the converse is also not less true, and 
that to the multitude a majority of these religious 
mendicants are types and exemplars of a holy life, and, as 
such, help them to make for righteousness. 

While, in connection with religious mendicancy, so 
much attention has been bestowed upon the obvious 
withdrawal of a host of men from contributing towards 
the work of production, one point, less obvious it is true, 
but not less interesting perhaps, has been quite overlooked, 
viz. the influence which sadhuism, by the alarm which 
its violent spread occasioned amongst Indian rulers and 
legislators, has indirectly had, and still has, in keeping up 
and maintaining the population of the country. This 
statement may seem somewhat paradoxical, but there is, 
I think, reasonable foundation for it. 

Let me explain. Amongst the social and religious 
precepts observed by the Hindus, perhaps the most 
important in their eyes is the rule which requires that 
every man, rich or poor, should have a son or male 
descendant to perform his funeral and post-funeral rites. 
Obviously, therefore, every Hindu should marry, and as early 
as possible. Hence every Hindu father is strictly bound, 
under the sternest social and religious penalties, to find 
a wife for his son, and also a husband for his daughter, 
even before she attains the age of pubescence. To be 
without a son or a male descendant is a terrible curse, 
entailing upon the unhappy defaulter the severest purga- 
torial suffering. In the case of Hindu women, childless- 
ness is a dishonour so unendurable that it often leads to 
suicide or strange immoralities.^ 

Whence came these ideas and ecclesiastical ordinances 
about the all-importance of male issue ? They are the 
result, I am inclined to think, of the worldly wisdom 

^ Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, by the Abbe J. A. Dubois, 
part iii. chap. iv. 

277 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

of the prescient Hindu legislator, seeking to counteract 
the depopulating effects of that spirit of asceticism and 
renunciation of the world which at its height probably 
threatened to lead to national extinction. And so, if I am 
right, an ordinance aimed at asceticism has been power- 
fully instrumental in keeping up the population of India, 
probably far above the limit most advantageous to the 
country. During the period when the spirit of asceticism 
was most influential in the Christian world, laws were 
passed and every hindrance put to the spread of monachism, 
and for the avowed reason of its injurious effect upon 
population.^ And so also in more modern times, and on 
the same grounds, Peter the Great prohibited the adoption 
of a monastic Hfe by persons under fifty years of age. 
The Brahman legislator secures the same end by a very 
different process. Unable, and in all probabihty unwill- 
ing, to enforce repressive measures against sadhuism, he 
appeals to the religious feehngs and the fears of the people, 
insists upon the obligation of every Hindu to have a son, 
and threatens punishment in a future life to such as fail 
in this duty. As a result, the numerical strength of the 
nation is maintained, and at the same time the ceremonies 
connected with marriages and births help the clever 
hereditary priesthood to keep their hands perpetually in 
the purses of their lay brethren. 

The Future of Sadhuism. 

If with an eye to the future of sadhuism we consider 
its present state, the conviction is forced upon us that 
it is not in as much favour as at many former periods 
in Indian history ; or, perhaps, I should rather say that 
the thoughts of men in India are now being strongly at- 
tracted to more worldly ideals. 

British rule, with its strong bias towards material 
improvements, its encouragement of trade, and the facihties 
it afiords for cheap locomotion and for emigration, has 
opened up a variety of careers, official and other, to all 
castes aUke, and also many new ways to the acquirement 
1 Bury's Later Roman Empire^ vol. ii. pp. 466-468. 

2/8 



CONCLUSION 

of riches, wMle its stability guarantees the safe possession 
of wealth by all races alike. However enamoured of 
sadhuism Hindu India may have been, there were, of 
course, at all times good Hindus who fully appreciated 
the advantages of worldly possessions and were assiduous 
worshippers of Kuvera, their god of wealth. Merchants, 
indeed, are prominent characters in some of the oldest 
tales that have come down to us from Buddhist times, but 
under despotic rulers the accumulation of riches was not 
an easy matter, and certainly their display would have 
been dangerous. The ever-present proportion of wealth- 
seekers in the population has its opportunity now, and is 
reinforced by crowds allured away from their old ideals 
by the special attractions of the new age. As in the 
West, so in India to-day, the possessors of the world's 
goods, however their treasures may have been acquired, 
are objects of popular respect, and receive marked con- 
sideration from the ruling powers, sharing with favoured 
officials to an appreciable extent the honours which the 
State has to bestow. Hence the desire for affluence and 
for the ostentatious parade of wealth has become very 
pronounced ; and the more so since outside the " Native 
States " most of the old hereditary dignities have ceased to 
be of much account under the new regime. . Hindu caste 
distinctions necessarily receive little, if any, recognition 
under British rule, and the pride of the " twice-born " 
classes no encouragement at all. Sadhus are not more 
fortunate ; for, whatever their merits or their claims may 
be, they are looked down upon with contemptuous in- 
difference by the ruling race, the new twice-horns of the 
Indian world, now in effect the predominant caste, 
exhibiting all the virtues and the vices of its peculiar 
position, privileges, and pretensions. 

Moreover, while old social landmarks are thus dis- 
appearing, it cannot be denied that a new national spirit, 
naturally opposed to sadhuism, is beginning to awaken 
and to manifest itself sporadically in acts whose intention 
at least is unmistakable. 

Another potent factor in determining the fate of 
sadhuism is EngUsh education, which, being indispensable 

279 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

for an official career, is eagerly sought for by all the 
ambitious youths of the country ; and the alumni of the 
Indian schools and universities, inoculated with Western 
ideas, and anxious to do credit to their training, generally 
affect, though they may not always feel, a supercilious 
unconcern about sadhus and sadhuism. The sadhus 
themselves, though professing, as heretofore, a hfe of 
complete detachment from the world, feel in an unwonted 
degree the effects of the currents of modern activity which 
are circulating through the land, and, under this stimulus, 
are awakening to combined actions of a very unusual and 
noteworthy character. For example, we learn from the 
Press, with feelings of satisfaction not unmingled with 
grave concern, that at a great bathing fair at Allahabad 
the sadhus, " sinking their animosities, joined in prayers 
for the success of the British arms, while their leaders 
dehvered speeches full of loyalty and devotion to the 
English Raj."i 

Without doubt, then, existing circumstances are tending 
in many ways to discredit and undermine sadhuism, and 
the continuance of these conditions will inevitably affect 
its position in the future. Yet, to conclude that the desire 
for wealth and position so strongly stimulated by present 
circumstances, that the pohtical awakening of these times, 
that the spread of education and the general feeling of 
unrest in India, will, all combined, prove the death-knell of 
sadhuism, would hardly be justifiable. Possibly, the very 
reverse might happen ; for as long as the common 
standards of living in India are low, and the religious 
ideas of the people substantially unchanged, a large part 

^ Saturday Review, 3rd March 1900. The deep significance of this 
display of good feeling on the part of the religious ascetics towards their 
foreign rulers, few, I fancy, have reahsed. What a shattering of British 
prestige, once heaven-high, all this reveals. Think of it ! The mendicant 
sadhus offering up prayers to such gods as they worship to come to the 
assistance of their defeated Enghsh masters. For years to come the story 
will be told, with many additions, by Yogis, Sanyasis, and Bairagis in 
every village south of the Himalayas, setting the minds of many millions 
of people a-thinking in unaccustomed ways. And the presence of a few 
thousand Boer prisoners in India will only serve as a testimony to the 
efficacy of the intercessions of the Hindu saints. Little do people know how 
much has been lost on the inglorious battlefields of South Africa. 

280 



CONCLUSION 

of the wealth that under new political and economic 
conditions may be accmnulated will assuredly be expended 
in charity, in accordance with the feeling and practice of 
the country, especially in the feeding of Brahmans and 
poor religious mendicants. Gifts and bequests to this end, 
which the stability of British rule render easy and 
permanent, may be looked for, and thus it may come to 
pass that a goodly portion of the newly acquired wealth 
will provide an unexpected fund for the further support 
of idle sadhus. Any way, admiration of the ascetic ideal 
is so deeply rooted in the nature of the Indian people, 
and their devotion to quietism so completely in harmony 
with the physical influences of their environment, that 
it will not be easily overcome ; hence, notwithstanding the 
present state of things, a general revival of sadhuism 
at any favourable moment is by no means improbable. 
The leaven of imported European ideas now fermenting in 
the Indian mind is aHen, unnatural, and disquieting, and 
though it produces some of the results which the Western 
world admires and labels " progress," yet there undoubtedly 
lurks beneath this progress a very real, if smothered, 
discontent. 

Well has the poet expressed in the following lines the 
true sentiments of the Orient : — 

" The brooding mother of the unfiUal world. 
Recumbent on her own antiquity, 
Aloof from our mutation and unrest. 
Alien to our achievements and desires. 
Too proud alike for protest or assent. 
When new thoughts thunder at her massy door ; 
Another brain, dreaming another dream. 
Another heart, recalling other loves, 
Too grey and grave for our adventurous hopes, 
For our precipitate pleasures too august. 
And, in majestic taciturnity, 
Refraining her illimitable scorn." 

William Watson. 

Thus would Hindu India wilHngly live a life of simple, 
easy, quiet, uneventful days, steeped in dreamy speculations 
and indulging in wild imaginings. But Fate has decreed 
otherwise ; and this stirring, mechanical age finds the 

281 



THE MYSTICS, ASCETICS, AND SAINTS OF INDIA 

disillusioned descendants of the risMs roughly awakened 
out of their old dream-world. Bewildered, resentful, but 
unable to resist the new stimulation from without, they 
are galvanised into feverish unhealthy cravings for 
material things not always harmless, into new expensive 
modes and standards of living, which in their innermost 
hearts they do not appreciate, and into enterprises for 
which they have no real vocation. Some term this 
progress ; but, even if it be so, the situation is not without 
a certain pathos, for, after all, man's highest destiny is 
hardly realised by his being perpetually engaged in 
manufacturing things of various kinds, however useful in 
themselves, nor even in helping to distribute such 
productions, often with the aid of quick-firing guns, over 
the face of the inhabited globe. 

Holding as I do that happiness, virtue, dignity, 
personal freedom, and reasonable comfort are quite 
compatible mth modes of life, political institutions, 
industrial systems, and religious creeds which are not 
those of England or the Western world, the present 
transition state of India seems to me a subject of much 
more than passing interest. 

By no means enamoured of Indian sadhuism, I feel 
at the same time no particular admiration for the in- 
dustrialism of Europe and America, with its vulgar 
aggressiveness, its eternal competition, and its sordid, 
unscrupulous, unremitting, and cruel struggle for wealth 
as the supreme object of human effort. But, whatever 
may be the merits or demerits of these two systems, they 
are essentially antagonistic, since the economic ideal of 
Hfe, being frankly worldly and severely practical, excludes 
imagination, emotionalism, and dreamy sentimentalism, and 
consequently religion also, except of the philanthropical or 
Pharisaical type. Hence a momentous, if unobtrusive, 
struggle in India is inevitable under new conditions 
between the forces which make for the renunciation of the 
world on the one hand, and for the accumulation of wealth on 
the other ; and there is no doubt that, as a consequence, 
the immemorial civilisation of the Hindus will undergo 
change, both in its spirit and practice, under the stimulus 

282 



CONCLUSION 

of the potent foreign influences to which it is now exposed. 
Yet I cannot help hoping that the Indian people, physically 
and mentally disquahfied for the strenuous life of the 
Western world, will long retain, in their nature, enough of 
the spirit of sadhuism to enable them to hold steadfastly 
to the simple, frugal, unconventional, leisured life of their 
forefathers, for which climatic conditions and their own 
past history have so well fitted them, always bearing in 
mind the lesson taught by their sages, that real wealth and 
true freedom depend not so much upon the possession of 
money, or a great store of goods, as upon the reasonable 
regulation and limitation of the desires. 



283 



INDEX 



Achari, sub-sect of Ranianandis,189. 

Agorinis, female Agoris, 167. 

Agoris, Saiva sect, 152 ; strange and 
disgusting habits and explana- 
tion of the same on pantheistic 
grounds, 164-166. 

Agorpanthis. See Agoris. 

Akalis, Sikh sect, 153 ; its origin, 
etc., 198-201. 

Akhara (monastery) of Santokh Das, 
256-262; of the Nirmali sect, 
263-264 ; of Jogi Tilla, 264-268. 

Alchemy practised by sadhus, 59-61. 

Alexander the Great, acquainted 
with Indian sadhus, 5. 

Alms-bowls carried by ascetics, 41, 
263. 

Amarnath in Kashmir, the customs 
observed on visiting the ice- 
caves, 268. 

American lady becomes a Sanyasin, 
154. 

Amva, austerities of, for destruction 
of Bhishma, 21, 22. 

Arya-Samaj, recent non-idolatrous 
sect, 137. 

Aryan nature-gods have ceased to 
be worshipped, 138. 

Asans (postures) described, 51. 

Ascetic Ufe, the natural and political 
condition of India peculiarly 
fitted for the encouragement of 
the, 13. 

Ascetic sects, not abnormal in 
number, 142. 

Asceticism, a common feature in all 
religions, 7-9 ; ideals underlying, 
7-10, 26 ; for the purification of 
the body from sinful desires, 9 ; 
stimulated by political or other 
troubles, 12 ; promoted by certain 
habits, 14 ; analysis of the motives 
which prompt religious, 16, 17 ; as 
a means of attaining power over 
nature, 18, 19, 27-30, 31-33, 77 ; 
in Hinduism has no special con- 
nection with ethics, 34, 35 ; an 



essential of a holy religious life, 
271-273. 

Ashtanga danddwai, a painful form 
of self-mortification, 47. 

x\ugars, a sub-sect of the Yogis, 185. 

Aurva, undergoes austerities for the 
destruction of the world, 21. 

Austerities, various forms of, 
practised by sadhus, 44-50 ; the 
right of Sudras to, practise, ac- 
knowledged, 274. 

B 

Bairagi,sub-sectofIlamanandis,189, 
190 ; description of one who used 
to swing head downwards, 202- 
208 ; description of an Urdha- 
bahu, 214-217 ; description of one 
who worshipped the sun, 231-233. 

Bairaguns (arm-rests) carried by 
sadhus, 42. 

Ballavacharya, founds a sect for 
the worship of Krishna as Bala 
Gopala, 127. 

Ballavacharyas, sect of Vaishnavas, 
152; peculiarities of the sect, 191. 

Banaprasta, or forest recluse, 15. 

Basava, founds a Sivite sect,117,118. 

Basil wood used for rosaries, 39. 

Baul, a sub-sect of Chaitanites, 193. 

Beneficent actions, attributed to 
sadhus, 58, 217-220. 

Bernier, his account of the Indian 
sadhus in the seventeenth century, 
his disgust at the appearance of 
the Yogis, 97. 

Bhaskarananda (Swami), a Sanyasi 
of Benares, interview with, 208- 
210 ; his biography, 210-214. 

Bhishma, Amva's austerities for the 
destruction of, 21, 22. 

Bhoureeahs, wear dishevelled hair, 
39. 

Body, the human body the cause of 
sinfulness, 8, 9 ; purification of, 
by ascetic practices, 9. 

Boer war, Indian sadhus in relation 
to, 280. 

85 



INDEX 



Brahmachari, or religious student, 
15 ; Saiva sect, 152, 163 ; one 
from Southern India described, 
221, 222. 

Brahmo-Samaj, a recent non-idola- 
trous sect, 137. 

British rule in India, its efiEect upon 
sadhuism, 278-281. 



Calamities attributed to sadhus, 56- 
58. 

Cenobitic life, origin of the, 11. 

Chains, an ascetic weighted with, 48. 

Chaitanite nuns, 192. 

Chaitanites, Vaishnava sect, 152 ; 
pecuHarities and customs of, 191, 
192. 

Chaitanya, founds a sect for worship 
of Kjishna and Radha, 128 ; 
introduces musical processions 
known as sankirtans, 129 ; incul- 
cates guru padasraya, veneration 
of the religious teacher, 130 ; his 
sect flourishing still, 130. 

Chakra, or discus, an emblem of the 
Vaishnavas, 43. 

Chamar (besom) carried by Jain 
monks, 151. 

Charity lauded in the Hindu Scrip- 
tures, 140, 141. 

Chippees, alms-bowls made out of 
cocoanut shells, 263. 

Christian rosaries derived from 
India, 40. 

Christian sects, ancient and modem, 
referred to, 142, 143. 

Christianity, affords abundant ex- 
amples of extreme asceticism, 10 ; 
the doctrine of voluntary asceti- 
cism a root-idea of, 26. 
Conch shell used as ornament by 

sadhus, 40. 
Conflicts between the founders and 
leaders of cults or sects a common 
feature in all religions, 33, 34. 



Dadu, founds a sect for the worship 

of Rama, 133. 
Dadu Panthis sect, founded by 

Dadu, 133. 
Daityas, terrible austerities of, 20, 

4W J. • 

Dakhinacharis, their sect mark, 38. 
Dameru, or drum, carried by Saivas, 
43. 



Danda, a stalEf carried by Dandis, 
160. 

Dandis, Saiva sect, 152 ; rules, 
customs, and beliefs of the sect, 
160-162. 

Dasnamis, the ten sub-orders of 
Sanyasis, 153. 

Dattatreya, his upa gurus, or as- 
sistant teachers, 158. 

Dayanand, founder of the Arya- 
Samaj, 137. 

Depraved appetite, instances of, 50. 

Dharmsala (monastery) of Thakur 
Dyal Singh, 264, 265. 

Dliruva, his wonderful austerities, 
23-25 ; exalted to the skies as 
the pole-star, 25. 

Digambara (sky-clothed), a Jain 
sub-sect, 151. 

Disillusionment, a story of the 
olden time, 81-83. 

Drugs, the use of narcotic drugs 
tends to produce apathy and 
quietism, 14 ; favoured by sad- 
hus, 42. 

Dudhahari, ascetics who live on 
milk, 50. 



Early recollections of sadhus and 

faquirs, 1-3. 
Ecstasy, scientific explanation of, 

177-179. 
Ethics has no connection with 

Hindu austerities, 34, 35. 
Extraordinary tale of a Yogi, 55. 



Fallon (Miss), her account of 
Premi, a young sadhvi, 245-247. 

Faquirs, early recollections of, 1-3 ; 
claim superiority over sadhus, 64, 
65 ; importance of their utter- 
ances, 65 - 68 ; described by 
Tavernier, 95. 

Farari, ascetics who live on fruits, 
50. 

Fasting, 48. 

Father duped, a story from the 
Granth of Guru Govind Singh, 
88-90. 

Fiction, sadhus in Indian fiction, 
68-91. 

Forbes (James), his account of 
Indian sadhus and their asceti- 
cisms, including some singular 
ones, 97-100. 

Funeral of Sanyasi, 156, 157. 

86 



INDEX 



Gareeb Das, an Urdhabahu Bairagi, 
described, 214-217. 

Geographical conditions in India 
favourable to asceticism, 13. 

Gopichandana used in painting sect 
marks, 38. 

Gopis, the milkmaids of Bindrabun, 
38. 

Goraknath, a deified saint wor- 
shipped in Nepal and Northern 
India, 184. 

Govind Singh, tenth and last Guru 
of the Sikhs, 132. 

Greek historians acquainted with 
Indian sadhus, 93. 

Grihasta or householder, life pre- 
scribed for, 15. 

Guru padasraya, servile veneration 
of the religious teacher inculcated 
by Chaitanya, 130. 



H 

Hansa, its real meaning and its 

fanciful interpretation, 162. 
Haridas, his samadh or interment, 

47. 
Hassan Khan, extraordinary story 

of his miraculous doings, 61- 

64. 
H4tha-yoga explained, 172, 173. 
Heber (Bishop), his account of some 

Hindu ascetics, 103, 104. 
Heer and Ranja, the romantic 

story of, 266-268. 
Hermitages described and illus- 
trated, 43, 44. 
Hindu lawgiver, rules laid down by, 

for the conduct of life in four 

prescribed periods, 15. 
Horned Rishi, a story from the 

Granth of Guru Govind Singh, 

83-85. 



I 

Ideals of life, English, American, 

and Indian compared, 270, 271. 
Idols sometimes carried about by 

sadhus, 42. 
India, conditions prevailing in, 

peculiarly favourable for the 

encouragement of the ascetic 

life, 13. 
Industrialism opposed to sadhuism, 

282. 
Iron fire-tongs carried by sadhus, 

41, 42. 



Jain nuns, 145, 150, 151. 

Jains, their doctrines and customs, 
142-150 ; divided into two sects, 
Swetambara and Digambara, 151. 

Jaladhara, ascetics who sit under a 
stream of water, 50. 

Jalashayi, ascetics who sit immersed 
in water, 50. 

Jhuttadarees, wear hair coiled on 
the head, 39. 

Jinas, Jain saints, 149. 

Jogeeshurs, a sub-sect of the Yogis, 
185. 

Jogi, ordinary term for Yogi, Pre- 
face, vii. 

Jogis referred to with disgust by 
Bernier, 97. 

Joint family system favourable to 
sadhuism, 16. 



K 

Kabir, founds a Vaishnava sect, 
122 ; recommends his disciples to 
conciliate all men, 124 ; preaches 
purity of heart, 124 ; story of his 
wife and the wicked grocer, 125 ; 
claimed as a Muslim by the 
Muhammadans, 126. 

Kabir Panthis, followers of Kabir, 
127, 152 ; peculiarities and cus- 
toms of the sect, 190, 191. 

Kanphatis, Yogi sub-sect, 185. 

Kantaka-sayya, or thorn couch, 45, 
46. 

Kara lingis,who restrain their desires 
by mechanical arrangements, 50. 

Karma (action), Hindu doctrine of, 
107, 108, 172. 

Keshub Chundra Sen, founder of the 
Brahmo-Samaj, 137 ; practised 
yoga, 173. 

Khakis, a sub-sect of Ramanandis, 
189. 

Kind-hearted lady, a story from the 
Granth of Guru Govind Singh, 87, 
88. 

Kowls (extreme Saktas), their sect 
mark, 38. 

Krishna, worshipped by the Vaish- 
navas, 109; his cult considered, 
118, 119. 

Kukas, a recent politico-religious 
sect, 137. 



Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu, worshipped 
by Vaishnavas, 109. 

87 



INDEX 



Laya-yoga explained, 172. 

Life of Hindus divided into four 

periods, 15. 
Lingaits, Saivasect, 152; origin and 

customs of the sect, 163, 164. 
Lingam (or phallic emblem) 

honoured by Saiva sect, 43. 
Lost son restored, a storv from the 

Granth of Guru Govind Singh, 

86, 87. 
Luxury and asceticism may exist 

contemporaneously, 10. 

M 

Madhavacharya, founds a Vishnu- 

vite sect, 118, 119. 
Madhavas (or Madhavacharis),their 

sect mark, 38 ; sect of Vaish- 

navas, 152; peculiarities and 

customs, 188. 
Mahabharata, story of certain 

daityas, 20 ; story of Visvamitra 

and Vasishta, 27-30. 
Mahant (abbot), installation of one 

described, 253-256. 
Mahatmas, not to be met with in the 

bazaars, 66, 186. 
Mahavogi (the great ascetic), name 

of Siva, HI, 112. 
Maji, a sadhvi of Benares, 244, 245. 
Malas (rosaries) described, 39, 40. 
Malati and Madhava, the story of, 

74-81. 
Mantra-yoga explained, 172. 
Matter and spirit, antagonism 

between, 8. 
Meditation as practised by Yogis, 

176. 
Menaka, a nymph of heaven and 

mother of Sakoontala, carries her 

ofi to the celestial regions, 73. 
Merits, Christian idea of, hoarded up 

for future use, 19. 
Metempsychosis, Hindu doctrine of, 

107. 
Mirabai (Princess), worships Krishna 

as Ranachor, 134 ; and founds a 

sect, 135. 
Monasteries, circumstances under 

which they arise, 11 ; visits to 

some, described, 248-269. 
Monks, Jain, 144-147 ; Chaitanite, 

192. 
Morals and asceticism, their rela- 
tions considered, 34, 35. 
Mount Meru, sadhus journey thither 

and do not return, 47, 48. 
Muhammadan power in India, its 

effect on Hinduism, 115, 116. 
Mussulman invasion of India, 115. 



Mutilation by a sadhu, 48. 
Mya (illusion), Hindu doctrine of, 
106. 

N 

Nadh worn by Yogis, 185. 

Nadis, vessels carrying subtle ethers 
through the human body, 175. 

Nakedness responsible for low 
opinion of Indians held by many 
Europeans, 5 ; tendency of sadhus 
towards, 269. 

Nanak, his conflict with the 
Siddhas, 31-33; a spiritual de- 
scendant of Kabir, 131 ; original 
founder of Sikhism, his teaching, 
132. 

Naths, immortal saints honoured by 
Yogis, 186. 

Neo- Brahmanism reviewed, 135-1 39. 

Nihangs, Sikh sect, 153 ; particu- 
lars regarding them, 198-201. 

Nimats, sect founded by Nim- 
baditya, 130. 

Nimbaditya, founder of the sect of 
the Nimats, 130. 

Nirmalis, tSikh sect, 153 ; particulars, 
regarding the sect and its origin, 
195-198. 

Nordau (Dr.), his explanation of 
ecstasy, 177-179. 

Nuns, Jain, 145, 150, 151 ; Chai- 
tanite, 192. 



Oghars, a sub-sect of the Yogis, 185. 



P 

Panchadhunis, ascetics who sit 

amidst five fires, 45. 
Pandita Mai Jivan Mukut, a 

sadhvi, 242-244. 
Pantheism of the Hindus, 106. 
Paramahansa, Saiva sect, 152 ; 

rules, customs, and beliefs of the 

sect, 162, 163. 
Patanjali, author of practical rules 

of Yoga Vidya, 172. 
Penances of various kinds, 44-50 ; 

described by Tavernier, 94, 95 ; 

by Bernier, 97 ; by James Forbes, 

99, 100 ; by Ward, 100, 101 ; by 

Heber, 103, 104. 
Plague averted by a Yogi, 2l7-220. 
Power over nature obtainable by 

ascetic practices, 18, 19. 
Prana, the vital air and its circula- 
tion, 174, 175. 



288 



INDEX 



Premi, a young sadlivi who em- 
braced Christianity, 245-247. 

Prince Bir Bhanu Singh, a sadhu 
interviewed at Amritsar, 226-229. 

Pseudo-sadhu, his adventures, 235- 
238. 

Psychology of the Indians, its 
characteristic features, 14. 

Purification of the body by ascetic 
practices, 9. 

Purificatory rites, certain peculiar 
kinds of, 51. 

Puttika, the mouth-veil used by 
Jains, 141. 



Radha, mistress of Krishna, wor- 
shipped by certain Vaishnavas, 
109. 

Raja-yoga explained, 172-173, 174. 

Ram Charn, founds the austere Ram 
Sanehi sect, 133. 

Ram Sanehi, sect founded by Ram 
Charn, 133. 

Rama Chandra, destroys Ravena, 
22 ; destroys Viradha, 22 ; wor- 
shipped by certain Vaishnavas, 
109, 119-121. 

Ramakrishna, a Bengali Sanyasi, 
52. 

Ramanand, founds a Vaishnava sect 
for the worship of Ram, 119-121. 

Ramanandis, Vaishnava sect, 152 ; 
peculiarities and customs, 188-190. 

Ramanuja, founds a Vaishnava cult, 
116, 117. 

Ramats, their sect mark, 38. See 
also Ramanandis. 

Ramawat. See Ramanandis. 

Ramayana, stories from, 22. 

Ranachor, a form of the youthful 
Elrishna, 134. 

Ranja and Heer, the romantic story 
of, 266-268. 

Ravena, his austerities and his doom, 
22. 

Re-union of the soul with the All- 
Spirit, 27. 

Rivalry in austerities between the 
leaders of classes and sects, 27, 
32 ; well known in other re- 
ligions, Judaism, Buddhism, 
Christianity, and Islam, 33, 34. 

Roll used in painting sect marks, 38. 

Rosaries, worn by Sadhus, 39, 40 ; 
Christian rosaries derived from 
India, 40. 

Rudraksha berries used for rosaries, 
39. 



Sadhuism, antiquity of, 5 ; an em- 
bodiment of the spirit of the East, 
6 ; its religious aspect, 273 ; its 
social aspect, 273, 274 ; its political 
aspect, 274, 275 ; its industrial 
aspect, 275-278 ; its probable 
future considered, 278-283 ; op- 
posed to industrialism, 282. 

Sadhus, early recollections of, 1-3 ; 
conspicuous figures in India, 3-6 ; 
indefatigable wanderers, 3-5 ; at 
fairs and public places, 36, 37 ; 
their dress and adornments, 37- 
41 ; their impedimenta, 41, 42 ; 
their hermitages, 43, 44 ; produce 
calamities, 56-58 ; perform bene- 
ficent actions, 58, 217-220 ; as 
alchemists, 58-61 ; as physicians, 
66 ; as fortune-tellers, palmists, 
and acrobats, 66, 67 ; in Indian 
fiction, 68-91 ; of European 
descent, 222, 223 ; of princely 
lineage interviewed, 226 - 229 ; 
who found God, 229-231; as 
restaurateurs, 239-241 ; and the 
Boer war, 280. 

Sadhvis (sadhuis), female devotees, 
242-247. 

Sahaja, a sub-sect of the Chaitanites, 
193. 

Saint in chains, description of, 240, 
241. 

Saivas, followers of Siva, emblems 
favoured by, 43 ; seven sects 
named, 152. 

Sakoontala, or the lost ring, the 
story of, 68-74. 

Saktas, worshippers of the female 
energy, 109. 

Sakti worship, 114. 

Saligram, a sort of ammonite 
carried by Vaishnavas, 43. 

Samadh, or burying alive, its per- 
formance often with fatal results, 
46, 47. 

Samadhi, definitions of, 176. 

Samsara (metempsychosis), Hindu 
doctrine of, 106. 

Sankara Acharya, preaches Sivaism 
and founds an important sect, 112, 
113. 

Sankara Vijaya, a work containing 
valuable information about the 
state of Hinduism in the ninth 
century, 110. 

Sankha or conch, an emblem of tne 
Vaishnavas, 43. 

Sankirtans, religious musical proces- 
sions introduced by Chaitany a, 1 29. 



289 



INDEX 



Sanyasi, closing period of Hindu life, 
15 ; one of the Saiva sects, 152 ; 
divided into ten sub-orders, 153 ; 
American lady admitted to the 
sect, 154 ; rules and customs of 
the sect, 154-160; a sub-sect of 
the Raraanandis, 189 ; a naked 
Sanyasi and his female companion 
described, 223-226. 

Sanyasin described, 223-226. 

Sarra-sayya, arrow-bed of Bhishma, 
45. 

Sect marks described, 37, 38. 

Self - mortification, various forms 
practised by sadhus, 44-50 ; de- 
scribed by Tavern ier, 94, 95 ; de- 
scribed by Bernier, 97; described 
by James Forbes, 99, 100 ; de- 
scribed by Ward, 100, 101 ; 
described by Heber, 103, 104. 

Sentiments of the Orient expressed 
by an English poet, 281. 

Sevaji, recently deified by the 
Mahrattas, 137 ; festival recently 
held in Calcutta in honour of, 
137. 

Shringhi Rikh, the horned saint, his 
story from the Granth of Guru 
Govind Singh, 83-85. 

Siddhas, conflict with Nanak, 31- 
33. 

Sikhism, founded by Baba Nanak 
and modified by Guru Govind 
Singh, 131-133. 

Sinfulness, the hindrance to spiritual 
aspirations, 8 ; attributed to the 
corporeal frame, 8. 

Singhi, ornament worn by Yogis, 
186. 

Silence, vows of, 48. 

Sita, wife of Rama Chandra, wor- 
shipped by the Vaishnavas, 109, 
119. 

Siva, regarded by his followers as the 
Supreme Being, 110 ; his worship 
attained a prominent position in 
the ninth century a.d., 110 ; 
associated with lingam worship, 
111 ; the great ascetic, 111. 

Siva Purana, stories from, 22, 23. 

Sleeman (Colonel), his account of 
Indian sadhus, 101, 102 ; de- 
scribes ciirious religious suicides 
in the Mahadeo hills, 102. 

Somnath, destruction of, by Mah- 
moud, and its effect, 115. 

Spashta Dayakas, a sub-sect of the 
Chaitanites, 192, 193. 

S]:)irit and matter, antagonism be- 
tween them, 8. 

Sri Vaishnavas, sect of Vishnu 



worshippers, 152 ; customs and 
peculiarities, 187, 188. 

Sthiila-sarira, the gross body, its 
nature, 169. 

Sudras, their right to undergo aus- 
terities recognised, 274. 

Sukee-bhava, a sect of Western 
India, 134. 

SAkshma-sarira, the subtle body, its 
condition, prospects, and ultimate 
emancipation, 169, 170. 

Sun- worshipping Bairagi described, 
231-233. 

Supreme Being, undergoes austeri- 
ties, 25. 

Swarga (Heaven) sought by sadhus, 

^ 47, 48. 

Swetambara (white-robed), a Jain 
sub-sect, 151. 



Tangalas, a sub-sect of the Sri Vaish- 
navas, 187. 

Tarika, his wonderful austerities, 
22, 23. 

Tavernier, what he saw of sadhus 
and their austerities during his 
travels in India, his description 
of Muslim faquirs, and mistaken 
account of the origin of sadhuism, 
93-96. 

Temples, religious merit acquired by 
the construction of, 249, 250. 

Tharasri, ascetics who stand for long 
periods by way of penance, 46. 

Tikas, sect marks, 38. 

Tilaks, sect marks, 38. 

Tirthankaras, Jain saints, 149. 

Tobacco, its use in India, 14. 

Transmutation of metals, practised 
by sadhus, 59-61. 

Trifala, sect mark, 38. 

Tripundra, sect mark, 38. 

Trisanku, introduced into heaven 
by Visvamitra, 29. 

Trisula (or trident), to be found 
amongst Saivas, 43. 

Tulasi (holy basil) used for rosaries, 
39. 



U 

Udasis, Sikh sect, 153, 194, 195. 
Urdhabahus, sadhus who keep their 

arms uplifted, 46 ; description of 

one of these, 214-217. 
Urdhamukhi, sadhus who hang head 

downwards, 46. 
Urdhapundra, sect mark, 38. 



290 



INDEX 



Vadagalas, sub -sect of the Sri 
Vaishnavaa, 187. 

Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu), 
emblems favoured by them, 43 ; 
various forms under which they 
worship Vishnu, 109 ; new sect of, 
founded by Ramanuja, 116; six 
sects named, 152. 

Vallabhacharya, founds a sect for 
the worship of Krishna as Bala 
Gopala, 127. 

Vasishta, conflict with Visvamitra, 
27-30. 

Vegetarianism conducive to indo- 
lence and apathy, 14. 

Vibuti (sacred ashes), used in paint- 
ing sect marks, 38. 

Virada, destroyed by Rama Chandra, 
22. 

Vishnu Purana, story of Dhruva, 
23-25. 

Visvamitra, conflict with Vasishta, 
27-30. 



W 

Ward, his account of Indian sadhus, 
100, 101. 



Watson (William) expresses the 

sentiments of the Orient, 281. 
Westminster Aquarium, sadhu's 

performances at, 67, 184. 
Witchcraft, its position in Hinduism, 

63, 54. 
Woman's cunning, story from the 

Granth of Govind Singh, 90, 91. 
Wonders that present-day sadhus 

are said to perform, 52-67. 



Yatis, Jain monks, 144-147. 

Yoga, its meaning, 172. 

Yoga Vidya, the system followed by 
the Yogis, 172 ; as explained by 
Swami Vivekananda, 180, 181 ; 
actual results of the system, 181, 
182. 

Yogaism (the doctrines and beliefs 
of the Yogis), explanation of, 
168-186. 

Yogis, Saiva sect, 152, 153 ; com- 
mand obtained over nature by, 
173, 174, 183, 184 ; origin of the 
sect, its subdivisions and their 
peculiarities, 184-186 ; a tale of 
Yogis and pious women, 233-235 ; 
a tale of Yogis as honoured guests, 
238, 239. 



291 



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The mystics, ascetics, and saints of Ind 




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